Finding Meaning in the Elements

tjI admitted to friends recently, an old shame. Back in my high school days I tried convincing an organization that put reading materials into the hands of the vision impaired, that I needed a book on tape. Mind you, back in the age of the 8-Track, books on tape were really books on reels and next to impossible to come by. Going in I knew it was a long shot but I had to try.

I’m a terrible liar and have no poker face whatsoever, even on the phone! I had the worst stomach ache from nerves made worse by the guilt that followed. I discovered they didn’t have it on a reel, but they offered me braille. They also said the book was a short one so they could have someone schedule to read to me over the phone. Read to me? I sheepishly thanked them but declined that generous offer realizing they would schedule to read to me and someone in real need would go without. I felt 100% ashamed of myself. I still do!

What book could possibly lead me down the dark path of chicanery? The Great Gatsby.

Don’t laugh! 😀

At the time that book was a necessary evil, a thorn in my side, a pebble in my shoe. It was required reading in my English class and I hated it. From the very beginning it grated on me…I would find myself reading and rereading the same paragraphs over and over. My brain just couldn’t go on. The city divided into East Egg and West Egg? Eggs? Who writes like that? The weather tied-in to everything Daisy did or felt?  By the time I determined those fading, bespectacled eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg were actually a metaphor for divine judgement in George’s mind, I wanted to punch ol’ F. Scot Fitzgerald in the nose.

So, my humiliating confession aside, I’ll move on to today’s portion of the symbol series. Like Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s glasses, in literature “things” are often symbols for concepts. For the next day or so, I’ll dip into a hodgepodge of things deliberately used to stand in for a thought.

Before I go off into details, I just want to comment on the weather. It’s colder than a well digger’s tookus here, and the sharp howling wind feels like needles on bare skin. That being the case…

Today ~ weather
Weather often symbolizes the overall mood. Like Gatsby’s Daisey Buchanan character who forever had a cloud or sunbeam on her frame of mind, authors use weather and natural phenomenon to convey all sorts of details.

Here are a few from earth and the elements to ponder:

Air ~ German Philosopher Nietzsche thought of air as man’s freedom and his writings often refer to air and flying through air in one form or another. Shakespeare used air as a symbol of thought. As breathing creatures, we rely upon air. Now with those first two things in mind, how powerful a metaphor is it to have “air” taken away?

Wind ~ Gentle breezes and ill winds generally act as portents signifying that change is on the way. Wind is fleeting and transient. Sometimes the reference comes in the form of billowing sails that could represent adversity unless a new course is charted. Then it takes on a role of potentiality. If you really want to see wind used to convey a thought, read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Dawn ~ Almost always a symbol of awakening. The coming of light is seen as a resurrection. A new day is a second chance.

Night ~ Often associated with secrecy and things hidden under darkness. It can be the flip-side to dawn. Instead of enlightenment, you get ignorance. Nightfall also has sexual and death associations.

Sky ~ The sky broadly represents eternity and references vastness and unlimited possibilities. It also symbolizes heaven and the universe.

Earth ~ Generally a reference for stability and foundation for life. We see “earthy” references that hint at the robust, lusty, or uninhibited. Often used for unrefined, basic, coarse, or crude.

Clouds, fog, and Mist ~ Represent the unseen and often the uncertainty about the future and beyond. Fog rolling in can represent approaching death as well. Fog lifting represents a clarity of thought and the end of indecision.

Water ~ Generally represents life or strength of purpose. Flowing water usually represents change and the passage of time. *see cataclysm

Rain ~ Often symbolizes acts of purification or revelation. Depending upon intensity, it could be revitalizing and life-giving or it can signify complete destruction.

Ice ~ Is often a symbol for things stiff and unyielding. It’s also a nod to frigid: cold and void of love, and emotionally difficult. It can reference the coming of death. To some, ice is the dividing line between the conscious and the unconscious. Dante referenced it for the deepest part of Hell.

Snow ~  Generally represents isolation. Anton Chekov  frequently tucked snow into his works for that hopeless thought. Edith Wharton used it that way in Ethan Fromm. Snow, because it’s white, can also signify purity. Melting snow represents the softening of the heart and new beginnings.

Wild weather ~ Hurricanes, twisters, cyclones and tornadoes often have hand-of-god wrath and judgement references.

Cataclysms ~ Floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, etc are often the harbingers of change. The end product comes through themes of sacrifice, death and rebirth, baptism and spiritual regeneration.

Lightning ~ Traditional lighting bolts are a symbol of sudden illumination and the destruction of ignorance. Author Bernard Malamud wrote a novel that was later made into a movie about baseball. I haven’t read the novel The Natural, but if the movie is true to the story (which happens to be a modern spin on Homer’s Odyssey) the lightning reference was a divine gift to give the hero the power of inheritance. (To allow his father’s belief in his natural talent pass to him so the hero would believe in himself).

Thunder ~ Generally represent a creative force unfolding (picture Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein). Thunder is often seen as the calling card of the demiurge whether good or evil.

Fire ~Fire is often used to represent passion — it consumes, it burns. Depending upon the context in which it’s used, fire can mean a lot of different things. It can illuminate and warm, but it can also cause destruction, pain, and death. It can also reference rebirth. Example: the phoenix.

That’s all for today. I have a lot of Monday work to see to.
Tomorrow ~ More!


New today Wash Line Monday!washline Monday

My friend and fellow author E. Ayers, came up with a very cute idea for the Exquisite Quills blog — have a day dedicated to clothing. Authors can stop by and in 300 words or less taken from the pages of their novel, describe what a character is wearing. I’ve never seen anything like it promo-wise. How fun. I started the weekly event with a snippet from book2 in The Witchy Wolf and the Wendigo that describes my Native American shaman’s dance regalia.  Set the Scene in Six on Sundays and First Kiss Wednesdays are quite popular. I’m sure this fun weekly meme will be too. Come join us!


Another 100 Things Blogging Challenge! For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 73 entries to come.

Here’s one for today:

Acrasial (adjective from 1851)

ill-regulated; ill-tempered

4 Us iconToday author Janice Seagraves’ interview.

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!

Last days in the COLD SNOW, HOT ROMANCE CONTEST! Three winners will each receive a $25 gift card for Amazon/Barnes & Noble, and split the other prizes randomly picked from prize list. Be sure to check all our pages for news about authors and their books, publishers and their books, and industry representatives.



Several promotional opportunities for romance authors can be found on my Exquisite Quills group blogs. Meet the founding authors and our guests.

Exquisite Quills Yahoo Group

Wash Line Monday ~ share your descriptions of clothing in your novel.
First Kiss Wednesday ~ share your best 300 word kiss.

Set the Scene in Six~ share your backdrop or lead-up on Sundays.
The Genesis of a Book ~ share the spark that ignited your novel
Author Interviews ~
We’re booking late spring now.

Coming soon on the EQ ~ Tempt Us Tuesday

EQ-RR.banner Today’s author: Charmaine Gordon
A new place for your old stars to shine 😀


all7books-smallLove Waits in Unexpected Places – Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories

Sample my love stories for free!



About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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9 Responses to Finding Meaning in the Elements

  1. rosgemmell says:

    Love the symbolism in all those elements – wish I remembered to use them more!

    • So subliminal too. We don’t even know we give signals half the time. Oh wait…you were talking about the weather and element symbols. Yeah they open new doors for word play. 🙂

  2. Sandy says:

    Great post, Rose. Also, I like the idea of the clothesline blog on your other site. Going there next.

  3. I use weather or scenery a great deal. In fact, I have a short story in Persephone’s Song anthology called, Weather Witch. My heroine expresses her emotions in a singular way, through the weather.


  4. Ray G says:

    I was able to recall either a written, oral or visual example of every symbol in the blog.

    Bill Cosby said on a comedy album, “Why is there air? To blow up basketballs.” My uncle once said breathing is a habit we can’t quit.

    Lightning is prominent in BACK TO THE FUTURE. Wind sometimes drives people crazy.

  5. Enjoyed this post, Rose. You are making people aware of their surroundings – always a good thing!

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