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Neuromancer | Symbols

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Shuriken

Traditionally, shuriken—or throwing stars—were a weapon used by Japanese warriors, specifically ninja, who coated them with poison. As metal stars, shuriken are artificial representations of natural beauty. In the novel, they are commodities and represent several things: the commodification of martial arts (such as martial arts movies), the globalization of cultures, and the way nature is tamed and denaturalized (as the majestic stars become handheld novelty items). Because of technology and urbanization, stars are not visible in Case's world, particularly in the Sprawl; this is ironic given humanity's access to space travel. Shuriken are especially important to Case—when he hallucinates in Chapter 2, he refers to them as "his stars." However, he remains unable to access them effectively, either to take comfort from their beauty or to use them in self-defense.

Wasps' Nest

In Chapter 10 Case remembers an incident that happened when he was 15 and tried to burn a wasps' nest. His memory moves through the entire sequence: from not seeing the first wasp when it came to build a nest (and would have been easy to kill), to the time wasps stung him and his lover, to the vision of the partially burned nest on the ground. The wasps' nest comes to symbolize the Tessier-Ashpool clan for Case, though he is pushed that way by Wintermute's manipulation of his memories.

Names

Names are a crucial part of Neuromancer in several ways. First, throughout the book names are meaningful, but the nature of their meaning varies. Some names—such as Dixie Flatline—are nicknames and represent victories. Other names are symbolic, such as Corto (meaning "curt" or "short") as the name of a man whose body and personality are cut into pieces by an accident. Still other names are meaningful because of their paradoxical nature, such as Riviera, who grew up in terrible poverty but whose name refers to a luxury resort area. Gibson seems to include some names just for their linguistic fun, such as having a bartender named Ratz tend bar in a bar nicknamed the "Chat," which is French for "cat." Finally, names signify power. Neuromancer's name gives the essence of who he is. Knowing it is, as he says, like knowing a demon's name. It gives one control.

Video Games

Video games are an important element in the novel in several ways. First, the introduction to a children's show informs readers in Chapter 3, "The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games." Case's intense addiction, and the visual structures millions of people share, all take their visual form from video games. These video games are part of a process in which society collectively creates a new reality. Video games also create the background noise in Case's life, operating as a kind of soundtrack. They communicate the nature of Case's world: artificial, commoditized, and intrusive. Finally, when Julie's gangsters kill Linda in an arcade, games are associated with death.

Eyes

Eyes, and the related quality of vision, are highly symbolic in Neuromancer. This begins with Molly's mirrored eyes: nothing can see into her. Instead of gazing into her soul, people who look at her eyes see only themselves. Simstim continues this transformation of vision. Once the simstim link is in place, Case sees through Molly's eyes. When he flips a switch, his biological eyes become relatively inert—he "sees" only symbolic representations of data in cyberspace. When he reviews videos of Armitage from his past, he recognizes Corto and Armitage as the same person because of their eyes. Finally, in the final cyberspace dogfight to unite Wintermute and Neuromancer, Case's vision becomes "spherical," as if the entire world had become a single giant eye.

Questions for Symbols

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