Themes and Symbols

Themes are the central ideas or messages in a story. Having clear themes can give a story a consistent feel and give it added depth. Typically, there is one main theme and zero or more minor themes. On this page, no distinction is made between the main theme and the minor themes. This gives writers some leeway to emphasize some themes over others.

Symbols are objects that are used repeatedly throughout a story to convey meanings that go beyond and are hinted by the objects themselves. In Mask of the Betrayer, for instance, masks are seen throughout the story. The hathrans wear masks as a symbol of their status and power. Akachi the Betrayer was said to have a mask whose pieces the Knight Captain must try to collect, but his real masks are the persons who are possessed with his Spirit Hunger. Even some of the PC's companions who do not overtly wear masks wind up masking themselves during their travels. Safiya tries to hide her status as a red wizard of Thay while traveling the streets of Mulsantir (and amazingly arouses no one's suspicion despite her bald, tattooed head). Gann wears a figurative mask of sarcasm and flippant egotism to hide an inability to make lasting relationships with other people. Masks can symbolize concealment, whether to hide one's true nature or to make people appear more powerful and intimidating than they really are. Perhaps one of the most painful truths that some people fear to deal with is that behind their fancy masks of status and power is an empty, hungry shell. (Oh, look, a theme.)

The use of symbols is an excellent way to convey a theme without overtly spelling it out. They give a story depth by making it seem that the story is about some superficial thing (as conveyed by the plot) when it's really about some deeper thing (the story's theme, which is hinted at by symbols). Consequently, symbols and themes are expounded on this page as if they were as inseparable as objects and their shadows. Writers are encouraged to try to apply them (with variations) on as many NPCs as possible.

Some of the themes presented below may be controversial, sparking debates with no clear resolution. If a theme manages to jar a person's complacent thinking, then it is a good theme.

Because symbols are understood not with logical thinking but with lateral, associative thinking, some of the themes and symbols below are presented in a roundabout way. Hopefully, the exposition won't be too disconcerting.


Mirrors are found in several places throughout Imura, and the PC eventually gets into serious trouble because of one particular mirror. Mirrors show us our reflections and may symbolize introspection. When you look in a mirror, what do you focus on? Do you berate yourself for the flaws that you see? Do you blind yourself to these flaws by choosing to see only the attractive parts of yourself? Taking a step inward, do you see only the "good" that is in you or the "evil" in your heart without seeing yourself as a cohesive whole? To deny the unattractive parts of yourself, to try to lock them away in your subconscious and erase them from your awareness, can only lead to unfortunate consequences. Those parts of you that are locked up will break out in very ugly ways at inopportune moments.

Shattered Mirrors

Breaking a mirror is said to result in seven years' bad luck. When looking at yourself in a shattered mirror, you see yourself many times over, framed within myriad cracks in the glass. It's as if you see yourself broken apart into smaller, incomplete versions of you, each of which is separated from the others by jagged divisions.

Take a person who has lost touch with himself, who ignores some aspects of his soul to emphasize only those parts that he likes. When such a person looks into an unbroken mirror, what does he see? He'll see himself looking whole, but deep within, he is as fragmented as his reflection would have been had the mirror been broken.

Mirrors and Dreams

Mirrors seem to show us a world much like our own but with the left and right sides switched. On a conscious level, we all know that the world beyond the mirror is just an illusion, a trick of optics that sane adults take for granted.

When we are awake, we operate in a world that behaves with a consistent set of rules. When we drop a vase, we expect it to fall down with one-hundred percent certainty. There is no chance that the vase will float upward instead and transform into a bluebird. Nevertheless, when we dream, we enter a world where all the rules go out the window. Anything imaginable can happen, and laws of physics are not recognized here.

Might there be a connection between the world beyond the mirror and the world of dreams? Lewis Carroll seemed to have suggested as much in his books Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Perhaps if we can only step through the mirror, we can enter the dream world.

When we refer to dreams, what do we mean? On the one hand, we may refer to those fanciful adventures that our subconscious minds present to us in our sleep. On the other hand, we may also refer to our hopes and aspirations. Visualizing one's desires is a powerful tool in the hands of visionaries, but for most people, it may be a waste of time. Take the following exchange:

Amber: I bought a new dress yesterday. I hope Brad finally notices me when he sees me wearing it.
Chelsea: In your dreams.

Dreams vary in depth. Some are as superficial as wanting a boy to notice a girl wearing a nice dress. Others, however, are embedded in the very core of one's passions. To have one's hopes and aspirations carelessly shattered can traumatize the bearer of those dreams and leave him a broken man.

Reflections and Duality

When you look in a mirror, is that really yourself that you see? It can't be. The person in the mirror looks right when you look left and raises his left arm when you raise your right. The person in the mirror is clearly someone else, someone who looks like you but didn't copy you perfectly. Whoever he is, he looks at you when you try to sneak a peek. You may try to turn away, but he'll always catch you looking, no matter how fast you move. Surely he's up to no good. Be careful when you turn your back to him because you'll never know what he'll do.

You may try to voice your suspicions about the person in the mirror, but everyone you speak to tells you the same thing — that he and you are one and the same. This perceived duality does not exist. You learn to stop telling people about your fears, but deep in your heart, you know who the person in the mirror is. He is your evil twin, and he'll wreak mischief to besmirch your good name and get you in trouble with the most important people in your life.

Eventually, some concerned people bring you to a doctor. She prescribes pills that you take every day, and you see her once a week. Some months later, you realize what everyone else knew all along. There is no evil twin, and you are not the good twin. There is just you.

Then you start to wonder — do "good" and "evil" have any objective basis in reality? If so, why is it that one person's conception of good is another person's conception of evil? Why do good things arise out of evil events, and why do evil things arise from good events? Are good and evil, like beauty, only in the eye of the beholder?

Sitting Buddha-like on the floor, you then think to yourself: Perhaps there is no good or evil. Everything just is.

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