J. Bowman knows that there is something missing in his life he has no desire to try and bring it into his life. He realizes he is only a salesman and that is all he will ever be. There are symbols in the story that show a shadow over Bowmans life.
Darkness is the most significant that occurs throughout the story, and light is also a significant part of the story. Mr. Bowman likes to cover up his true feelings by ignoring them or literally covering them up. Through the symbolism of darkness and light, Eudora Welty shows the reality of the loveless void in R. J. Bowmans life.
From the beginning of the story the darkness of Bowmans situation reflects the emptiness of his past and the bleakness of his future. Bowman is a salesman who is just getting out of the hospital recovering from an illness. An illness that is causes him to forget the way to Beulah. Driving down the road Bowman stuck his head out of the dusty car to stare up the road (204), this is the first sign of dark symbolism.
There is a dusty residue on his car and he is trying to see out of his window, the window of life. There is something in his life that is cloudy, or there is something missing in his life. He is standing at the beginning of his life looking down a dirt path that only has one route, which is striving to be the best salesman he can be, and nothing more. Bowmans life has two parts to it, half of his life is happy and the other half is full of darkness and sadness. After his car goes into the ditch he goes to a house and knocks on the door.
An old woman opens the door holding a lamp and he notices that the lamp she holds is half blackened, half clear. . . (208).
The lamp is a symbol that there is a part of his life that is voided out and not thought about often, or not at all. He is a one-minded person; he has his mind on being a great businessman and selling shoes. The half clean part of the lamp resembles one half of his life; the half of his life that is bright and headed on the right path, for example, him being a successful salesman is the clean part of the lamp. It is his lighted part of his life because he is successful. The blackened part of his life is the empty part of his life, which could in turn be the lack of being loved or the ability to love someone or something else besides selling shoes.
He goes into the house and sits while the woman tells him that her husband, Sonny, will be home to get his car out. While walking in the house the darkness of the house touched him. . . (210), meaning that the darkness of the house had a presence of emptiness, which was a resemblance of his life. He had no idea why the house touched him, he could only wonder.
The woman set the half cleaned lamp on a table in the center of the room (210), which resembles his life that revolves around this dark cloud over his life, where something is missing, something that he has never experienced before. The clean part of the lamp resembles the happy part of his life, like his shoe selling business and being a successful salesman. Being a great and accomplished salesman was an essential part of his life. With the lamp not being lit the sickness has taken over his life for a period of time and he is not able to be happy because there is still that darkness and now a new darkness that is keeping him from selling shoes. As he is sitting in the house Bowman realizes how lonely he is, and he thinks .