I’ve already shared that I really get into the symbols we use to represent things. I guess this is why I love the written word like I do. The other night, we watched a documentary about the missing kingdom in Ancient Egypt. Too long to explain it all today, but the search turned up many unidentifiable clay tablets covered in unknown cuneiform writing. The archeologists were desperate to find one readable text that would act like the Rosetta Stone. They eventually found a tablet written in a common language of the time, and all fell in to place.
It got me thinking about the spark, the impetus, that drove the first human to scratch a line and say this represents such-and-such. Looking at cuneiform, it seems all too similar to me…little dashes, little triangular stabs pointing this way and that. I can’t help thinking it must have been difficult to memorize. Rereading that last sentence, I imagine every student in China laughing at it. With an astounding 45,000 different characters, the Chinese writing system isn’t an alphabet as we know alphabets, rather entire words in symbol form. It’s said one only need to memorize about 3000-4000 to be proficient in reading Mandarin. Is that all? I like our 26 letters of the alphabet. I like our R’s and S’s. I’m comfortable with our W’s and Q’s. I admit Russian, and Turkish peak my interest, as do letters in Belarusian and Greek. They all have such fun-looking alphabets.
It’s a symbol thing. 🙂
Just sharing a thought there — a wordy morning ramble launched on a half-cup of coffee.
So anyway…I’m still looking into symbolism in literature. Where better to go next than Allegory? Search for a definition and you get this:
- The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.
- A story, picture, or play employing such representation.
- A symbolic representation e.g. the blindfolded figure of a woman holding a scale is an allegory of justice.
Etymology: From the Greek, “to speak so as to imply something other.”
Allegory has been used in teaching principles for ages. One truth always stands in this type of storytelling — an allegory is not meant to be taken literally. It’s funny how these stories touch our minds as entertainment yet root as deeper meaning. What child doesn’t know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare or the Ant and the Grasshopper by Aesop? Conveying that you shouldn’t give up because slow and steady wins the race, and the concept that failure to stock food in the summer might cost you come winter, are classic codes to live by.
Authors use this device in their writing to convey a personal statement. I certainly do. If I’d put any more statement into Loving Leonardo, no one would be able to lift the book of the table! I find such thoughts enhance the reading experience. As a reader, when I’m able to draw a deeper meaning from a passage I’ve read, it always feels like the author wrote it for me. And I like that.
Authors such as Steinbeck, Melville, C. S. Lewis, Swift, and Milton all dabbled in it. Good luck trying to find a modern author’s work. Here are a few of the best-known allegorical works out there:
- The Divine Comedy, an epic poem by Dante is also an allegory to keep on the straight and narrow lest you end up in hell.
- The obvious one The Allegory of the Cave by Ancient Greek philosopher Plato suggests man has a tendency to accept convention without question, even to his detriment.
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A disturbing abstract on rationality, order, and democracy.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell is an equally disturbing abstract on the communist regime of Stalin.
Beyond those books forced upon me in school, I haven’t tackled all of the above and probably never will. Heck, I can’t get half-way through any Steinbeck before it makes me cry. I’m more of an informational reader — give me a set of encyclopedias with an occasional run of historical romance and a dash of Harry Potter, and I’m good.
How many allegorical works have you read?
Tomorrow: a bit more…
Here’s one for today:
Molrowing (noun appeared 1860-1896)
caterwauling; cavorting with prostitutes
Today is author Jean Hart Stewart’s interview day.
All through January the RB4U authors are doing interviews. The thoughtful questions are a great way to get to know us. Commenting that day gives you a chance to win a collectable t-shirt. Come see!
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