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Symbolism in Literature
Transcript of Symbolism in Literature
What is Symbolism
It is when the author uses the practice
of representing things by symbols,
or of investing things with a symbolic
meaning or character.
In literature symbolism is used to provide meaning to the writing beyond what is actually being described. The plot and action that take place in a story can be thought of as one level, while the symbolism of certain things in the writing act on another level to enhance the story.
Why is Symbolism Used in Literature?
Symbolism can take place by having the theme of a story represented on a physical level.
A simple example might be the occurrence of a storm at at critical point,
when there is conflict or high emotions. The storm might symbolize these.
Similarly a transition from day to night, or spring to winter,
could symbolize a move from goodness to evil, or hope to despair.
A river in a scene could represent the flow of life, from birth to death.
Flowers can symbolize youth or beauty.
Not everything in a story is necessarily symbolic. A garden landscape is just a garden ... until it is contrasted with a bustling city, at which point the garden could symbolize tranquility, peace, or escape.
Using symbolism in a story can be as simple as inserting something into the story that symbolizes what's happening in the plot. But while this kind of symbolism is easy to incorporate into writing, it's not easy to be very subtle, and overusing it can turn a good story into a series of way-too-obvious clichés.
Symbolism should be an integral part of the writing, instead of an obvious add-in. For example, a story about how an old man suffering from a terminal disease lives out the last few months of his life, might make the setting of the story autumn time in a city, where the onset of winter has obvious (and not very pleasant) effects on the surroundings. The cold winds, shortening days, and lowering temperatures could symbolize the drawing to a close of the old man's life.
Examples of conventional literary symbols
Washes away guilt
origin of life
Prevents clear vision or thinking
Wind and Storms
Flow of life
from birth to death
evil or mystery
Windows to the soul
Barometer of emotions
Here are some examples