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Questions tagged [symbolism]

For questions concerning symbolic features in a work of literature.

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How does Dee Raain use the Mirrors to highlight negative human traits in the poem “Mirror of Truth”?

The poem "Mirror of Truth" by Dee Raain is as follows: What is seen in the mirror is nothing more than a person with lies and hate. With sadness and traits Of discrimination and disgrace. ...
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“I've seen your flag on the marble arch”

From Leonard Cohen's "Halleluj'ah": Baby, I've been here before -- I know this room, I've walked this floor: I used to live alone before I knew you. I've seen your flag on the ...
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How do the letters S, U, F, I symbolise the stages of Aziz's life?

In Elif Şafak's novel The Forty Rules of Love, in Aziz's correspondence with Ella, he tells her his life story, completing the final part when he meets her in person. Each part of his life he refers ...
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Why are the chapters in The Bastard of Istanbul named after ingredients of ashure?

The Bastard of Istanbul is a novel by Elif Şafak which explores Turkish and Armenian culture and history; you can read a summary and 9-page excerpt online. One of the questions from the "reading guide"...
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Is there any significance to the choice of similes for poetry in “Some Like Poetry”?

The poem "Some Like Poetry" by Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska is a musing lament about the unpopularity of poetry among the general population. The middle verse consists of a series of similes which ...
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Origin of symbolic interpretation of Prospero's breaking of his staff?

At the end of The Tempest, which is generally believed to be the last plays that Shakesepare wrote alone, Prospero breaks his staff and drowns his book. This has often been read as Shakespeare telling ...
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Pissing in a sink in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

In Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, at some point one of the main characters - Thomas, that is a Czech doctor - in the house of one of his lovers decides to piss in the sink. The ...
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What is the symbolism of the Western Wind (or Zephyr)?

I was reading some poetry and I stumbled upon the four-line 'Western Wind' by Anonymous, written in the 16th century: Western wind when wilt thou blow the small rain down can rain Christ if my ...
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Is Dorothea's nickname metaphorical?

In Middlemarch by George Eliot Dorothea Brook's nickname is Dodo. Or actually to be exact her sister, Celia Brook's nickname for her is Dodo. Is this an allusion to Dorothea's almost extinct kind? ...
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What is Nick Bostrom's 'Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant' an analogy of?

Available, freely, online, is Nick Bostrom's The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant (2005), an essay or short story about a fictional dragon's tyranny and effect on/cost to society. CGP Grey adapted it into ...
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What's the significance of Faust's meeting being on Easter Day?

In Goethe's Faust, the eponymous (anti?)hero meets the demon Mephistopheles on what seems to be Easter Sunday, during local celebrations of Easter. Given the religious themes in the story, this surely ...
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What does “in the Ring” mean in Because I could not stop for Death?

3rd stanza: We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun – I've heard of attempts justifying an ...
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What is the symbolism of Eustace's arm ring?

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace put a cursed arm ring on, which resulted in him becoming a dragon. Does the arm-ring itself have any special symbolism (e.g. he was entrapped by his own ...
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What is the deeper meaning of Blake's “The Lily”?

The poem "The Lily" by William Blake must be one of the shortest of his Songs of Innocence and of Experience collection, only four lines long: The modest Rose puts forth a thorn, The humble sheep ...
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Why is the robin “sobbing”?

Blake's "The Blossom", part of his Songs of Innocence which you can read online, is a very short poem about a sparrow and a robin. The part about the robin reads as follows: Pretty, pretty robin! ...
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What is the meaning of Blake's poem “The Sick Rose”?

William Blake's very short poem "The Sick Rose", from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience, runs as follows: O rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm, That flies in the night, In ...
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What is the symbolism of Ransom's heel wound?

In Perelandra, the second book of CS Lewis's planets trilogy, the protagonist Ransom is wounded in the heel by the Un-Man/Weston. We learn in the third book, That Hideous Strength, that the wound ...
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What is the poetic technique used in “I know why the caged bird sings”?

In this poem, when comparing the caged bird to suppressed black people in America, is the poet using metaphor or symbol?
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Symbolism in The House on the Borderland?

I just read William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland. Is the implication that the man's relationship with his live-in sister inclines to incest? Are the swine intended as symbols of lust (as ...
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Why is Sergeant Shadwell obsessed with nipples?

One of the many recurring gags in Good Omens is Sergeant Shadwell's obsession with nipples. For example: One of the first questions he asks Newt when recruiting him to the Witchfinder Army is how ...
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Could the War of the Worlds be considered a proto Cosmic Horror story?

After reading the War of the Worlds, I have noticed that H.G. Wells has presented several themes that would not be alien to something that Lovecraft would compose. There's a deep anti-anthropocentric ...
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Seeing the world through green-tinted glasses

people thus situated, who have warm imaginations, generally amuse themselves by conjuring up an idol of perfection to which they attach all kinds of merit, probable or improbable. They invest the ...
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Is there a direct parallel to actual social prejudices for each color in “The War Between the Classes”?

In The War Between the Classes, the class sets up four levels of classes: Blue, the highest class; Dark Green, the lower high class; Light Green, the higher low class; and Orange, the lowest of the ...
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What does Pudd'nhead Wilson's joke about half a dog mean?

In Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain, the character David Wilson makes a remark that results in the townspeople writing him off as a "pudd'nhead". He had just made the acquaintance of a group of ...
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Is “The American Claimant” a veiled take on “The Indian Question”?

Mark Twain's 1892 novel The American Claimant was written very soon after the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890), which was basically revenge for the 1876 Battle of Greasy Grass ("Little Big Horn"). This ...
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Benvolio and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet

What do the characters of Benvolio and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet symbolize, if anything? Mercutio's character mainly provides jokes, and then, in his hot-headedness, is slain by Tybalt. Benvolio ...
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What does the six-legged dog in Charles Simic's poem “Country Fair” represent?

The poem "Country Fair" by Charles Simic centers around a dog with six legs. I'm sure the dog is supposed to symbolize something important that the speaker feels the presupposed audience is ...
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Why does Susan say her “eyes are hard” when suffering an emotional breakdown in the Waves (Virginia Woolf)?

"I love," said Susan, "and I hate. I desire one thing only. My eyes are hard. Jinny's eyes break into a thousand lights. Rhoda's are like those pale flowers to which moths come in the evening. [...
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Is the Whisperer or the Emergency symbolic?

In The Mysterious Benedict Society series, the Whisperer is a machine that transmits thoughts and implants messages in people's brains, usually harmful. And the Emergency is the tense, stressful ...
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What is the deeper meaning of “The Tyger”?

William Blake's poem "The Tyger" is part of his collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience, an extraordinary set of poems which explores ideas such as spirituality, love, poverty, repression, all ...
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Does Puzzle the Donkey have an allegorical relationship with any entity in the Book of Revelation or the Bible at large?

C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are a great children's series which present an allegory the New Testament and Biblical history. That said, Lewis sometimes put in things that don't necessarily reflect ...
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What is the significance of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov?

In the The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan tells a long story to Alyosha about the Grand Inquisitor. I have been trying to grasp its meaning for sometime, but what is the significance of that story?
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Does the poem 'In Just' (e. e. cummings) allude to innocents being led astray by the devil?

In the poem in Just, (1) the balloon man whistles and children come running. On the surface, this could simply be about a man selling balloons and children wanting to buy them. But we know that e. e. ...
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What social group are the Sculpted supposed to represent?

"The Sculpted" is the word used to refer to any non-human inhabitants of the world of The Spire. All of them are different from humans in physical appearance, often quite drastically. "Skew" is a ...
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What's the point of the sandy beach in “A Dream Within a Dream”?

The main thrust of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "A Dream Within a Dream" concerns the existential angst of the narrator, and his fear that "all that we see or seem" is nothing but "a dream within a dream". ...
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Is the hook of Marethyu meant to evoke a scythe?

Marethyu is a central character in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. You can read more about him here, but that Wikia page contains major spoilers for the series, so follow that link at ...
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What do the night and day in “The Unreturning” symbolise?

I now understand the poem "The Unreturning" much better than I did when I asked this question, thanks to Peter's excellent answer and my reading through it several more times and more carefully. It's ...
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Is the heart in “The Hunt” associated with Desire?

One symbol that is repeatedly associated with Desire is a crystal heart. This appears in several Sandman stories, including in each Endless member's gallery. (Each Endless has a gallery, containing ...
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Symbolism of the Mind Game in Ender's Game

I was recently discussing Ender's Game in The Reading Room, and I mentioned that I reread it because I felt that there were things that I had not understood. One of these things is the Mind Game. ...
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Meaning of President “Coin” in the Hunger Games books?

My impression was that the name Coin is meaningful as opposed to arbitrary. My thoughts on the meaning so far are: "Other side of the same coin" in that Coin represents the good guys, but is also an ...
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Symbolism of Marx and Lenina's names in Huxley's Brave New World?

Reading Brave New World it seemed obvious to me that Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne are in some way referring to Marx and Lenin, but I couldn't figure out any clue to support this claim. Is it truly ...
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Are Vin and Elend symbolically linked to Preservation and Ruin in The Hero of Ages?

In Brandon Sanderson's The Hero of Ages (book three of the Mistborn trilogy), Preservation and Ruin are two anthropomorphized forces of nature, evenly matched in their struggle against one another. ...
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Symbolism of Occam's death in Straight Man?

In Richard Russo's novel Straight Man, the protagonist Hank claims to be a philosophical disciple of William of Occam, and applies Occam's razor to his approach to deduction many times. As I recall, ...
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What does a dog barking at a crow signify?

In Much ado about nothing by William Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 1, Beatrice declares to Benedick 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swears he loves me.' I understand that Beatrice ...
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What is the significance of the “suffocation scene” at Tchermashnya in Brothers Karamazov?

I'm re-reading The Brothers Karamazov and was struck again by a strange scene whose meaning isn't immediately clear to me. In "Lyagavy", Part 3, Book 8, Chapter 2 of The Brothers Karamazov, Mitya ...
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What did the Roll which the Shining Ones delivered to Christian represent?

I've been reading The Pilgrim's Progress - an allegory for the Christian life written by John Bunyan while in prison for his religious beliefs. This passage follows directly after Christian's ...
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What does the sukebind represent?

Stella Gibbons invented the sukebind for Cold Comfort Farm, and she wields it with metaphorical deftness as if it had its own long floriographic history to draw on. I'd assumed that the sukebind and ...
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What's the significance of the witches' name change in Sandman?

As mentioned in another question, the three witches are very significant in The Sandman. While that other question asks for their significance in general, I have a much more specific question to ask. ...
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What does Dream's ruby represent?

In Volume One of The Sandman (Preludes and Nocturnes), Dream is held captive for 70 years. After escaping and taking vengeance on his (only surviving) captor, he returns home, to the Dreamworld. ...
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In Neil Gaiman's “The Sandman”, what do the Three Sisters represent?

The Three Sisters - the Hecatae, the Fates, the Kindly Ones - are ubiquitous in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (and in other works). They appear in the first volume to give Morpheus three answers: and ...