Questions tagged [symbolism]

Questions concerning symbolic features in a work of literature. Both symbols and the things they represent can be either tangible or intangible. Not to be confused with the [motif] tag or [meaning] tag. This tag is not to be used for questions about Symbolism as a movement in (mainly French) literature, unless such questions are about the use of symbols. See the tag wiki for more information.

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Viktor Erofeyev "The Akimuds": Animal motif

In the SF/Fantasy/political satire "The Akimuds" by Viktor Erofeyev, selfsame Akimuds (sort of a stand-in for God, Jesus and the angels) claim they are ducks. Now, "doves" would ...
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6 votes
2 answers
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What do critics mean by "corruption of the American dream" in relation to "The Great Gatsby"?

Critics say that The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald symbolises the corruption of the American dream. For example, Charles R. Hearn: Fitzgerald emphasizes the fact that the content of Gatsby’s ...
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Meaning of "Beneath the water of their lives" quote by Mitch Albom

Recently I was reading the book "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom and I came across this quote: It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that ...
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10 votes
4 answers
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Why might Robert Frost specify a ' long two-pointed ladder' in the poem 'After Apple Picking'?

The opening lines of Robert Frost's 'After Apple Picking' read: My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there's a barrel that I didn't fill Beside it, and there ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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What do the saint, the angel, the musician and the sandalwood refer to in Mallarmé's poem Sainte?

Stéphane Mallarmé was a major symbolist poet. One of his poems is Sainte (available on Wikisource). On the surface, it talks about musical instruments, a sandalwood tree, religious ceremonies, an ...
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Repeated mentions of eggs in poems by Allen Ginsberg

I've been listening to Allen Ginsberg reading his own poetry, and I've noticed a repeated mention of eggs in them. For examples: who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg "...
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What nationality do rabbits represent in "Maus"?

In page 37 panel 1, there are 2 rabbits sitting down and talking. What nationality do they represent?
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3 votes
1 answer
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What is the connection between the chicken banquet and the king's intentions towards the marchioness?

Day 1 Story 5 of the Decameron is about a King who visits the estate of a Marquis and Marchioness during the former's absence with the intent of wooing the latter. She understands his intent and ...
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3 votes
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Do the young women and men of the Decameron represent the Virtues and sections of the soul?

The Wikipedia page on the Decameron claims that: Many details of the Decameron are infused with a medieval sense of numerological and mystical significance.[9] For example, it is widely believed[by ...
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What do roses stand for in "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde?

There are 3 times roses appear in the garden "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde: White rose: Marriage / chastity / young love / loyalty Yellow rose: Betrayal / sadness / doubt ...
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1 vote
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What do light and dark signify in Ai's "Woman to Man"?

Ai's poem "Woman to Man" starts with a striking description of lightning, with darkness being symbolised by a "knife [...] deep in the walls". This might be taken as just scene-...
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3 votes
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Why does Mussolini refer to war as female?

In the beginning of Chapter Three of his autobiography, Benito Mussolini writes the following: War had come — war — that female of dreads and fascinations. What is supposed to be conveyed by calling ...
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7 votes
1 answer
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What's the significance of The Idiot in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian?

Toward the end of Blood Meridian, the gang encounters a man whose brother is so severely disabled that he is kept naked in a cage. Obviously, this character cannot speak and does not contribute to the ...
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1 answer
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What is the lion in Tiel Aisha Ansari's "Dervish Lion"?

Tiel Aisha Ansari's poem "Dervish Lion" is in four parts, the narrator speaking to the wind, a mountain, the tide, and a lion. (Possibly corresponding to four elements, if the lion can be ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What does "a star" symbolize here?

Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell, Each night a star to guide thy feet to heaven. This verse has been taken from the poem "Opportunity" by Walter Malone. What does "a ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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What do the yellow banners in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Haunted Palace" symbolize?

The story "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe contains a poem, "The Haunted Palace", which starts like this: In the greenest of our valleys,     By good angels ...
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Do "rain and elder bloom" signify anything in Hazel's last dream?

At the end of Watership Down, in the Epilogue covering just before this happens, he has a final dream which is something about "rain and elder bloom": One chilly, blustery morning in March,...
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3 votes
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Understanding and interpreting Yeats phases of the moon

I recently came across this lovely poem whilst watching the (excellent) TV show Rake The song will have it That those that we have loved got their long fingers From death, and wounds, or on Sinai's ...
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Why these specific "things that fly" in "Kite-Flying"?

Rose Justice, the main character of Rose Under Fire, writes several poems that appear in various places in the book. This is the second verse of Kite-Flying: Hope waits stubbornly, watching the sky ...
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What's the significance of the hoofed figure walking a fish in "A Day at the Park"?

"A Day at the Park" is an excellent philosophical comic by Kostas Kiriakakis, featuring two rather odd-looking creatures discussing the merits of questions and answers. (It applies very well ...
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What does the "bedding" symbolize in the Hailsham description in "Never Let Me Go"?

In the exposition of the story, the transformations of the characters as they enter to the adulthood is given in the chapter ten and the reminisces they make are central to the whole story of having ...
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2 votes
1 answer
459 views

Why are primroses emphasized at the start and end of Watership Down?

The first paragraph of Watership Down: The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading ...
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5 votes
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What does the Whether Man teach Milo in "The Phantom Tollbooth"?

Everything in the Lands Beyond teaches Milo something, so his first encounter, the Whether Man, what does he teach Milo? Milo confuses the 'Whether' man with the 'Weather' man, when he introduces ...
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18 votes
1 answer
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How can you come out dry from the Sea of Knowledge?

In The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, what does Canby mean by: "You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry. Most people do." What does he try to ...
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2 votes
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What does the sword represent in poem 52 of Tagore's English Gitanjali?

In poem 52 of Tagore's English version of Gitanjali, a female persona speaks of a gift that a man or lover left her: What token left of thy love? It is no flower, no spices, no vase of perfumed water....
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3 votes
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Why did Halle have butter all over his face

In Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, Sethe's husband Halle never came back to Baby Suggs' house after planning to run away from Sweet Home. After Paul D arrives, he later blurts out to Sethe of what he ...
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1 vote
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What did Avni Doshi try to convey towards the very end of "Girl in White Cotton" / "Burnt Sugar"?

Towards the very end of her novel, Avni portrays a scene where the protagonist Antara is together with all the characters introduced in the novel (except Kali Mata). They are having a family get ...
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5 votes
1 answer
176 views

What is the significance of "southern" in Tagore's poem "A Hundred Years From Now"?

The Bengali poem "Aaji Hote Shata Barsha Pare" by Rabindranath Tagore, translated into English as "A Hundred Years Hence" or "A Hundred Years From Now", is a poem written ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Why does Coriolanus describe the common people as many-headed?

Coriolanus describes the people and tribunes as many-headed in multiple instances. "[H]e himself stuck not to call us the many-headed / multitude" (2.3.16-17). Here the citizens discuss ...
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1 vote
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In Animal Farm, what is the significance of the gun’s placement at the foot of the flagpole?

What is the significance of Mr. Jones's gun’s placement at the foot of the flagpole? Is there anything that this represents?
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2 votes
1 answer
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What's with the dogs in Mark Strand's "Eating Poetry"?

In Mark Strand's poem "Eating Poetry", the first several lines appear to be about a person who has been consuming poetry - I interpreted this as metaphorical, "eating" poetry as in ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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What do Connie's two navels represent?

Nick Joaquin's story "The Woman Who Had Two Navels" opens with the following words: When she told him she had two navels he believed her at once: (...) "She" is Connie de Vidal, ...
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2 votes
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What is the symbolism of the sun in this Bengali short story "The House of Wax"?

"The House of Wax" is a short story by Subodh Ghosh, translated from Bengali to English by Somrita Ganguly. It's about a man and woman who meet at a train station years after getting ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What do the cypress, rose, and wild herb symbolise in this description of Feridoun's rule?

From the second part of the Shahnameh: Five hundred years did Feridoun rule the world, and might and virtue increased in the land, and all his days he did that which was good. And he roamed ...
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1 vote
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What is the significance of 36 in the Vietnamese poem "Learning Late Letters"?

"Learning Late Letters", a poem originally written in Vietnamese by Nguyễn Hoàng Quyên, was one of the winners of the 2020 Words Without Borders Academy of Americans Poets Poems in ...
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3 votes
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What do the silks and tattoos represent in Sui-Yun's poem about Eve?

One of the Peruvian writer Sui-Yun's Four Short Poems (translated from Spanish by Jennifer Shyue) is written as addressed to "Eve, my eternal mother". I hope I'm not being excessively dirty-...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Is there any connection between the reticence of Lady Anne and the cat-bird subplot?

While answering another question, I read Saki's short story The Reticence of Lady Anne" from his Reginald in Russia collection. Inasmuch as a story this short can be said to have "plotlines&...
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3 votes
0 answers
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Symbolism of Billy Nolan in Carrie

Billy Nolan is a resentful, vindictive and abusive teenager who supplies Chris Hargensen with Pig blood for a prank that occurs within Stephen King's story Carrie. In it, King writes several passages ...
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4 votes
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Why so many poems about fish in Through The Looking-Glass?

Lewis Carroll's famous flight of fantasy Through the Looking-Glass, a sequel to the even more famous Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, contains a lot of nonsense poetry, much of which relates to fish. ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Why does the Whether Man live in Expectations, and why does he talk like this?

I've just started re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth, a fantastic tale of wit and wordplay. Every place and person that Milo meets through this story is rich in symbolism, and every piece of description ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Why is a sorrowing heart called "Sultan" and a stone heart called "burial site" in this verse of Saint Kabir?

I came across this verse of the great Indian poet Saint Kabir: बिरहा बुरहा जिनि कहौ, बिरहा है सुलतान। जिस घटि बिरह न संचरै, सो घट सदा मसान॥ birahaa burahaa jini kahau, birahaa hai sulataan jis ghaTi ...
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-4 votes
1 answer
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In how many ways can you interpret this haiku poem? [closed]

What may be the possible (hidden) interpretations of this poem (written by me), which uses a form of Japanese poetry called 'haiku'? a filled bow, stretched with zest- the smile flies How would the ...
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6 votes
1 answer
397 views

"The Gift of the Magi" Literary Analysis: Symbolism and Time

In O. Henry's short story The Gift of the Magi, Della's hair is likened to a "brown waterfall." Why is that symbolism significant? I've been wracking my brain, and I was thinking it maybe ...
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2 votes
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Outline the symbolism of “The astronaut in Isolation” by Rosalind Morris

“The astronaut in Isolation” by Rosalind Morris is a poem that was published on Daily Maverick on 30 April 2020. It's a new poem and there is no interpretation of this anywhere on the web. I would ...
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7 votes
0 answers
108 views

What does Mr World represent in the American Gods book?

The American Gods Wikia site claims that Mr World is a personification of globalisation. That definitely seems to be true in the TV series (see the creepiest rant ever made about salsa), but in the ...
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1 vote
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Symbolic interpretations of William Horwood's Callanish?

William Horwood's short novel Callanish is about a golden eagle in London Zoo and his struggles with captivity and freedom. It was Horwood's second novel about eagles, after the extraordinarily good ...
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4 votes
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Who is Yossarian's pal?

In Catch-22, Chapter 41 ("Snowden"), Yossarian is under medical care after an attempt on his life. He's apparently fading in and out of consiousness at this point: Yossarian vomited, and Colonel ...
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What is the purpose of all the gustatory imagery (food imagery) in "The Shawl" by Cynthia Ozick?

Anyone who has read the novella The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick might have noticed it is rich with gustatory imagery. In the first part of the novella, food imagery (i.e. lack of food) illustrates hunger ...
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7 votes
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Any significance to the "Dutch clock" and "Chinese plate" in Eugene Field's "The Duel"?

I just learned from an answer to an ID question about the poem "The Duel", or "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat", in which Eugene Field describes a vicious fight between two stuffed animals as told ...
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1 vote
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How is inner conflict presented in the poem "Tissue"?

We haven't studied this poem in class due to the COVID-19 outbreak and schools shutting down, but we have made annotations for the poem. However nothing about conflict came up. Have you got any ideas ...
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