The River Brod
This is the symbolic heart of the shtetl, Trachimbrod, and is the place where Brod is found and is, of course, the place she is named after. In this light, it is associated with having miraculous life-giving properties at least in relation to the survival of Brod.
As well as being the center of the annual festival, it is also where many of the villagers are killed when the Nazis attack directly for the first time on Trachimday in 1942. This death toll includes Safran’s wife and baby. The water reminds us, then, of the fine dividing line between life and death and of the ephemeral nature of existence.
Safran’s Dead Arm
Jonathan hypothesizes that his grandfather had numerous lovers because of his dead arm, as women took pity on him or were transfixed by this part of his body (and it is as though he is regarded as helpless). For these many women, the arm became a metaphor for the control they may gain over him, and it may even be read as a figurative (but not literal) representation of castration.
String is used as a recurring motif and re-appears intermittently through the sections set in Trachimbrod. It first appears as a part of the flotsam that rises to the surface on the River Brod after the wagon goes into the water in 1791. It is also used to festoon the streets on subsequent Trachimday festivals as a means to commemorate these events.
On a figurative level, the string may be interpreted as a link with the past and becomes an umbilical cord of sorts. This is a significant reading when one considers the closeness of Safran with his mother and his love of her over other women.
This novel also persists in looking back to the past and to the history of the Jewish members of the village. The string becomes a representative of the connections made between the present and the past throughout the history of the village.
Everything is Iluminated: Metaphor Analysis
The River Brod