Haunting Olivia Character Analysis

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“Haunting Olivia” details the story of two brothers, Waldo (commonly called Wallow) Swallow and Timothy Sparrow, trying to find a remnant of their sister Olivia. She disappeared one day while out on the beach, and despite the signs pointing to the idea that she was dead, the boys hope that she is somewhere out in the vast ocean. Their journey is anything but ordinary. Along the way, they encounter ghost animals, word-forming fish, and much more. What makes the story unique are not its themes themselves, but the way Russell depicts them using imagery. She uses imagery to convey them in a subtle way, effectively engaging the readers in the boys’ journey to find their long lost sister. An arching theme in “Haunting Olivia” is guilt, which is…show more content…
Waldo’s constant state of sadness indicates that he is stuck at the fourth stage of grief: depression. His inability to progress to the final stage, acceptance, highlights that he is engulfed in his guilt. This characterization of Waldo adds depth to his character that would otherwise not be there. If it was simply stated that he felt sad after Olivia’s death, the reader would not have much to connect with. However, since Russell used imagery to flesh out his character as a boy consumed by guilt, a layer of realism is added to the story. For example, the image of Waldo’s recurrent nightmare highlights the fact that he places the guilt solely on his shoulders, even though he could not control what happened to Olivia. Everyone knows someone that has been or is in a similar situation to Waldo -- someone unrelenting cruel towards themselves due to an outcome they could not control. In fact, many readers can personally attest to feeling the same guilt that Waldo is in the story, whether it be regarding a similar type of tragedy or something else entirely. This sense of relatability helps the reader to connect to the themes and characters Russell portrays in a way that is impossible if she wrote it any other
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