"Thought You Should Know" is just too long for me to ever imagine doing a commentary on. And a part of me feels like commentaries give away the magic of the story even though I love reading them. Because if you're pointing out symbolism or themes here and there, well isn't that supposed to be something the reader interprets? Isn't the story supposed to speak for itself?
So as a writer you're stuck between giving it all away or leaving the meaning mysterious. I find myself having to hold back when responding to feedback because I want to talk about my process (I talk too much) because it seems like I'm telling the reader how to interpret the story by laying out how I constructed the character motivation or the situations.
Anyways, as I'm trying to find this happy balance between fic commentaries and freedom of the reader's interpretation, I was thinking about "Thought You Should Know" and symbolism. And I actually do want to talk about this because it's meaning is very much intended. There's actually a few very strong motifs that have been running through this fic, but I doubt it's been picked up on much because, well, most people don't read fanfic with the intent to do some literary analysis.
Motifs in "Thought You Should Know"
- Mirrors: symbolic of truth. The search for truth and even the misrepresentation of truth through a distorted reality.
This symbolism is most obviously present when Buffy first meets the Decoy, even comparing herself to her Decoy in a mirror. And of course, the Decoy is a living embodiment of Buffy's mirror. There are several other instances throughout multiple chapters where Buffy spends time examining herself in mirrors.
- Doorways: symbolic of opportunity. A doorway is at first an obstacle or even protection from the outside world depending on which side the character is standing. If a character is hesitating at opening the door, it often means they're afraid of what the world might do to them. They would rather keep that doorway as their shell from the rest of the world.
There are a lot of scenes with characters standing at doorways, within doorways, afraid to open doors. And sometimes these barriers aren't even doors - for instance, in Chapter 1 (the extended version), I have Spike hesitating in an alleyway at the line on the ground where daylight and shadow meet before he braves the sun to thrust the letter into a mailbox. Even his hesitation at later mailing the postcard shows him eventually opening the "door" of the mailbox. Spike is always bracing himself to push through these doors, while Buffy is often being surprised by what she finds within the doorways unexpectedly. But in breaking this pattern, the most pronounced moment where Buffy breaks through a doorway is during the Death Club scene, bridging the divide and destroying her attempt to separate her personal and Slayer self.
- Windows: depending on how they're used, windows often represent a characters limited view of the world.
Probably the most significant use of this is when Buffy is watching her Decoy and Andrew lifting off in their plane from Rome. Her limited view of the world at this point is inspired by anger and self-interest. She's not thinking of others at this time, but her own wants and desires.
So there you have it. "Thought You Should Know" is a story all about knowledge, how we seek it, hide from it, misunderstand it, embrace it and share it.