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Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
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  • 1. Symbols & Allegory When is a cigar not a cigar?
  • 2. Literary Symbol
    • Something that means more than what it suggests on the surface. It may be an object, a person, a situation, an action, or some other element that has a literal meaning in the text but that suggests or represents other meanings as well.
  • 3. What’s the Difference?
    • An image means what it is: “A shaggy brown dog scratches his rough back with a scruffy paw.
    • A metaphor means something other than what it is: “Some dirty dog stole my wallet”
    • A symbol means what it is and something more as well.
  • 4. How to Find a Symbol
    • The story itself must furnish clues that the detail should be interpreted symbolically. Symbols nearly always signal their existence by emphasis , repetition , or position.
      • Miss Brill’s fur is referenced at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Repetition and positioning signal its importance as a symbol.
      • The quilts in “Everyday Use” are emphasized by their importance to the central conflict.
  • 5. How to Find a Symbol
    • The meaning of the symbol must be established by the entire context of the story.
      • Symbols must fit all of the major details of the story. If there is a significant event that doesn’t fit with our interpretation of a symbol, than we may not have fully explored the author’s intent.
        • Miss Brill’s fur does not represent insanity. This does not fit with the tone and details of the story.
  • 6. How to Find a Symbol
    • A symbol must suggest a meaning different in kind from its literal meaning.
      • Miss Brill does not symbolize old women – she is an old woman. However, her fur symbolizes the odd, lonely, person she is.
      • Dee (Wangero) does not symbolize daughters – she is a daughter. However, her name might symbolize her rejection of her roots.
  • 7. How to Find a Symbol
    • A symbol can have more than one meaning.
      • As with many other aspects of literature, a symbol can be interpreted in as many ways as a theme.
      • The quilts in “Everyday Use” may represent inherited values, beauty of craftsmanship, the value of the past, etc.
  • 8. How to Find a Symbol
    • Remember the Zebra Rule!
      • Most elements in a text are literal because most texts operate on a literal level. Don’t look for zebras until you’ve ruled out the work horses of literature: imagery, figurative language, etc.
  • 9. Allegory
    • A narrative or description that has a second meaning beneath the surface
  • 10. What’s the Difference?
      • Unlike metaphor an allegory is a system of related comparisons rather than one drawn out comparison.
      • Unlike symbol an allegory puts less emphasis on the images and more on the ulterior meaning. Also, meaning tends to be fixed. There is a one to one relationship between detail and ulterior meaning.
  • 11. Allegorical Examples
    • Pilgrim’s Progress
      • Story of Christian ’s journey through the wilderness. Each element represents the Christian journey through life.
    • Animal Farm
      • Story of the animals revolt against the oppression of the farmer. Each element represents an aspect of the Russian Revolution and eventual turn to a Communist government.

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