English Literature
/
Symbolism

Symbolism

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

The Significance of Symbolism in Literature

When it comes to understanding symbolism in literature, it is important to consider how an object can hold a deeper meaning or convey a specific message. This literary device can manifest through creative interpretation or the use of widely recognized symbols. A classic example of symbolism can be found in J.K Rowling's beloved series, the Harry Potter novels (1997-2007), where the protagonist's scar symbolizes bravery and the triumph over a traumatic past at the hands of a formidable foe.

Defining Symbolism in Literature

In literature, symbolism refers to the use of an object, event, or action to represent something beyond its literal meaning. Authors often utilize conventional symbols that are familiar to society, such as a crown symbolizing royalty. However, they may also manipulate these symbols to convey a specific message or idea.

The Function of Symbolism in Literature

Symbolism adds depth and complexity to a literary work, allowing readers to uncover hidden meanings and themes. It also creates a sense of intrigue, as the reader must decipher the symbols for themselves. For instance, in Margaret Atwood's compelling novel, "The Handmaid's Tale" (1985), makeup is used as a symbol of the past, choice, and control. In the oppressive society of Gilead, women are forbidden from wearing makeup, but when they visit an underground establishment, they use it to gain power and control over men.

Identifying Symbolism in Literature

To identify symbolism in a text, look for objects that appear multiple times or undergo a transformation throughout the story. For example, in the film "Superman" (1978), Clark Kent's glasses serve as a symbol of his secret identity as a superhero. The use of glasses, a human accessory, represents his alter ego's human-like appearance, while also highlighting his superhuman abilities.

<

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime