In William Saroyan’s play The Oyster and the Pearl there is a lot of symbolism. The theme of the play is to take it easy and relax and life will be much happier. Harry Van Dusen is a barber that has a philosophy of “Take it easy.” He tries to spread his philosophy by talking to people when he is cutting their hair. It was almost as if the haircuts were just a way of getting people in the barbershop to talk. The hats that Harry wore symbolized the attitude that he was in. The sea symbolizes life. The name of the small town that the story takes place in is called O.K.-by-the-Sea. That name symbolizes that life isn’t perfect but by taking it easy it can be more fun. Vivian McCutcheon is a new school teacher that does everything “by the book.” She just tries to fit in. This is symbolized by her wanting a poodle haircut. She didn’t really want one but she was trying to be like everyone else. Harry knew this and that is why he would not give her the haircut. Harry’s philosophy is superior to Vivian’s philosophy of fitting in. This is shown by how much happier Harry and everyone else that lives by his philosophy is than Vivian. All the little things in the story have symbolism too. The bottle of sea water stands for the details of life that have to be looked for. Clay and Clark Larrabee symbolize the problems and difficulties that occur in life. Two of the most important symbols in the story are the oyster and the pearl. The oyster symbolizes obstacles that must be overcome to get to hope(the pearl).
Beach combing represents looking for the obstacles to get to hope. The pearl is hope. When Clay found the oyster he thought there was a pearl inside. Everyone except Harry told him there was nothing inside of the oyster. Harry probably knew there wasn’t anything inside of the oyster but he wanted to make Clay happy. The Oyster and the Pearl is filled with symbolism. Much of it I did not recognize. Taking it easy and relaxing is a great philosophy to have because life will be a lot easier not worrying about material things. Happiness is all a person needs.