Chapter 12 is that a symbol Presentation Transcript
Is That A Symbol? Chapter 12
Symbolism is everywhere; if you suspect something is a symbol, it probably is, even if it is just symbolic for you. The problem with detecting symbols is simple: we want the symbol to mean one thing in particular.
If possible, the writer will use not just symbolism but allegory. Allegories reveal a particular message. For example, in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress , a sequence of events take place that are similar to the quest of a Christian to get to Heaven. Many parts of the work are symbolic, with each part ultimately symbolizing a single idea.
E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India has the main character Adela assaulted in a cave, at least she is convinced she has been violated. Once again, we want the symbolism to mean universally one thing for everyone. But this cave is difficult: it could mean any number of things:
It may imply links between the “most basic and primitive elements in our nature.”
The cave can also represent consciousness and perception. Adela may have become aware of these elements in herself and not like what she perceives. She, therefore, makes up an incident “out of her conscious control as a form of denying an ugly element within herself.
With so many possibilities, everyone’s perception of the cave may be different. But the one concept that we can be sure of is that the cave is a holder of secrets.
Not only are items symbolic, but actions can be symbolic, too. For instance, in Robert Frost’s poems “Mowing”, “The Road Not Taken”, and “After Apple Picking” the persona’s action or non-action is symbolic of a philosophical idea.
“Mowing” is symbolic of labor and an isolated way of life. “The Road Not Taken” is symbolic of the consequences of a decision. “After Apple Picking” is symbolic of “the wear and tear of living on the human psyche.”
When attempting to determine the symbolism in any work of literature, it is necessary to use your instincts, your imagination, and your past experiences. What you feel about the text is more often than not significant. Also, as with everything else, you will get better at accurately perceiving the meaning of symbols with practice.