Definition of Symbolism and their Meanings




Symbolism in Literature
Examples of Symbols in Literature

In literature, symbolism had its beginnings with the publication of The Flowers of Evil in 1857.

Symbolists often believed that art should represent absolute truths that can only be described indirectly. Due to this fact symbolists wrote in a metaphorical and suggestive manner, giving particular images or objects a symbolic meaning.

Symbolist poems were attempts to evoke emotion.

Authors sometimes use cryptic references (which is often by using symbols to represent things). Authors use symbolism to add deeper meaning to a story. When reading literature you will notice that some symbolism used is obvious, while at other times it is more subtle. Symbolism is used quite often to support a literary theme in a subtle manner.

Here are a couple good examples of symbolism in writing.

Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

In The Lord of the Flies, Ralph with his conch shell represents order and democracy, while Jack symbolizes savagery and anarchy. The island itself symbolizes the world in which we live, and the actions of the characters are symbolic of the way different people conduct their lives. The beast represents the darker side of human nature.

Symbolism in MacBeth

The play MacBeth by William Shakespeare uses blood, both real and imagined, as a symbol of guilt, both of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth. Another symbol used in the play is a raven, which usually represents ill fortune.

Writers will often put symbols in their writings to bring the reader into a mood or feeling about something, without even saying what the perspective mood intended is. Symbols are very powerful in writing, and just using a symbol with even the slightest intention, can put the reader into a frame of mind or a certain mood.

Here are some common uses of symbols in literature. You will often see symbols related to good and evil in literature. (God, the Devil, etc.) Symbols related to death and rebirth are often used as well.

Authors also like to use cultural symbols in their writings, if you are reading a story about the greatness of the USA, you may find the Red, White, and Blue used, or the bald eagle, or Uncle Sam, or the word patriot.












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