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What is symbolism? Symbolism is when the author uses an object or reference to add deeper meaning to a story. Symbolism is used to provide meaning to the writing beyond what is actually being described. A symbol can enhance a theme, idea or a character.
We have studied Colors Objects Pieces of nature like the water or the sky What else can be used for symbols?
Parts of the DAY can be symbolicof life.. For example, morning is the start of the day, and the start of life. Night is often used to symbolize old age or approaching death. Think of the Elie Wiesel’s novel Night, why do you think he titled it that?
Seasons can do the samething… What part of life would Spring represent? What about Summer? Fall? And finally, Winter?
SO SYMBOLS CAN TELLUS ABOUTCHARACTERS, PLOT,IDEAS AND THEMES.But how?Let’s look at some examples of literature that usessymbols.
A theme may be representedthrough symbols. For example, a storm occurring when there is a conflict or high emotions. Why do you think Dorothy was caught up in a tornado in Kansas and swept away to Oz? What had her so upset before the storm hit?
Harry Potter also has a lot of symbolism. One clear symbol is that of a snake to represent evil. It is no coincidence that they symbol of Slytherin House is a serpent.
The Raven…. Edgar Allan Poem used a lot of symbols in his literature. One of his most famous poems, The Raven, had a dark, sinister bird watching over him like a dark shadow. Why do you think in the poem about loss and death did Poe use a dark raven rather than a dove?
Star Wars Have you ever seen Star Wars. Why do you think Luke SkyWalker wears white and Darth Vader wears all black? What do those colors symbolize? How do they show us more meaning about the characters?
Raisin in the Sun… Another famous story of a family struggling is called Raisin in the Sun. In this story Mama has a plant which sits on the window sill. What does a plant need to survive other than water? Sunlight, yes! What might the sunlight be a symbol of as it tries to help the plant grow? What about hope or having a need filled? Those work. And, what does a plant do? It grows. So the plant can also be a symbol of growth.
You’re a Mean One… The Grinch dresses up as Santa Claus and sneaks into town to steal all of the food, presents, and even the Christmas trees in Who-ville. To him, this was symbolic of Christmas. He wanted to steal Christmas. But, he fails. All of the Whos who live in Who-ville still wake up on Christmas morning just as joyful as ever. They lift up another symbol of Christmas. Their song! It forces the Grinch to think that “Maybe Christmas…perhaps… means a little bit more”
So what does that symbolism do?It teaches a moral Too often, children lack the understanding of the real meaning of Christmas. Everyone gets caught up in the commercial aspect of Christmas and forget the true reason for the holiday. They just want the gifts. In this story, Dr. Seuss is putting emphasis on that real meaning of Christmas. When the Who’s wake up and are joyful despite the Grinch’s visit, it shows that the presents really do not matter.
Symbols are used in a lot of FairyTales. There are many examples of food as symbolism in the German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. The story begins with a lack of food. The woodcutter’s wife convinces her reluctant husband to take two children out into the woods so they will not have so many mouths to feed.
Lost in the woods, the children use bread crumbs to mark their way home. So the bread is a symbol of a way home. However, they find the birds have eaten the crumbs and ruined their trail. While wandering in the woods, they come across a cottage built of gingerbread, which they begin to eat. The gingerbread house with its sugary sweetness is a false haven. In other words, they think they have found safety in food, but it is not real safety. They think it represents the wealth being the rich as opposed to the poor family’s lack of enough to go around.
So food is seen throughout thestory. Food has different meanings for the characters in the story. Bread symbolizes home and comfort, which the children have lost. To the birds, bread is food and to the old witch the children are the makings of her next meal. The children triumph when the witch is tricked by Gretel and pushed into the fire.
The Road Not Taken And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost
Let’s look at some of the lines inthis poem.Based on thisline, whattime of yearis it?If I said thattime of yearrepresentedpart of yourlife, what partof your lifewould it be?The traveleris staringdown a paththat split intwo. Whatcould thatrepresent?
Let’s Think… Yellow is a FALL color. If life is broken into the seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, the fall is later in life, but not quite old age. The path split in two could represent having to make a decision or a choice in life.
Notice…Notice the Traveler’sdescription of the twopaths.The first path helooked down until itbent in theundergrowth. Thatmeans he could seethe path a long wayuntil it turned. Thesecond was “grassyand wanted wear”.This means that theground wassmoother. Therewas grass, but youcouldn’t tell if anyonehad walked on itmuch.If it “wanted wear” itseems that no onehad been that way.He doesn’t say thatabout the first path.So, when he says hechoose the one “lesstraveled” it means hechoose the onewhere he didn’t seemany people hadwalked on it.
Frost finishes with a lesson…The roads Two roads diverged in a wood, andsplit and hetook the one I, I took the one less traveledthat fewerpeople had by, And that has made all thetraveled on.If the road is differencea path in life,it means hedidn’t followthe crowd.He choosehis ownpath. Andthat is whathas made allthedifference.
So you see, symbolism can develop acharacter, or as in The Road Not Taken, it candevelop a theme.
Fire and IceSome say the world will end in fire, Some sayin ice. From what Ive tasted of desire I holdwith those who favor fire. But if it had to perishtwice, I think I know enough of hate To saythat for destruction ice Is also great And wouldsuffice. -Robert Frost
What do you think What do you think Fire could be a Ice could be a symbol of? symbol of?Why?What do they make you thinkwhen you read that poem?
Nothing Gold Can StayNatures first green isgold, Where is the symbolism?Her hardest hue to hold. What do you think “first green”Her early leafs a flower; symbolizes?But only so an hour. What else makes youThen leaf subsides to think it is spring?leaf. What part of life does spring represent?So Eden sank to grief, What does it meanSo dawn goes down to then that nothing goldday. can stay?Nothing gold can stay.
Y’all have done a great jobfinding and explaining the use ofsymbols in literature!