54 pages 1 hour read

Kenneth Oppel


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2004

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Symbols & Motifs

The Aurora

Throughout Airborn, Matt assigns meaning to the Aurora, which he sees as a home, a friend, and an avenue for escape. Though his tendency to use feminine pronouns for the ship adheres to nautical conventions, the way he thinks about the airship mirrors personification. When the Aurora is damaged, Matt wants to “heal” her; when she sags from lack of hydrium, Matt too feels his spirits fall. At various points in the text, Matt sees the Aurora as providing a connection to his late father and constituting a means of escape from his feelings. He projects his future onto the ship, as well, as his dream is to one day be her captain. Given these many, ever-shifting resonances of the Aurora in the novel, the ship emerges not as a symbol of any one specific thing, but rather as a reflection of Matt’s present-moment thoughts, desires, or fears. His decision to leave the Aurora at the end of the novel to pursue education at the Air Academy thus represents an emotional maturity that lets him chart his own way without relying on the ship’s symbolism to decode his wants for him.