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Questions tagged [symbolism]

For questions concerning symbolic features in a work of literature.

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How can “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” be read as a commentary on Scotland?

In the Wikipedia page for Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, one of the mentioned interpretations of the story is as a symbolic representation of Scottish nationalism vs union with ...
2
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1answer
139 views

What is the significance of the traveler carrying writing materials in Ivanhoe?

The Jew's dress, which appeared to have suffered considerably from the storm, was a plain russet cloak of many folds, covering a dark purple tunic. He had large boots lined with fur, and a belt around ...
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217 views

Why is Hemingway's generation a ‘lost generation’?

I recently began reading Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast. In it, Hemingway and his contemporary Americans are described as a ‘lost generation’: It was when we had come back from Canada and ...
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96 views

What is the significance of “half past two” in Wolfgang Borchert's The Clock and The Bread?

In both The Clock and The Bread by Wolfgang Borchert there is a mention of the events happening at "half past two" in the morning. I have been unable to find a historical event of World War Two that ...
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4answers
425 views

Who is the falcon, and who the falconer?

In Yeats' greatest of poems, he writes that "the falcon cannot hear the falconer." Who is the falcon and who is the falconer? Why might Yeats have chosen this metaphor? The Second Coming ...
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1answer
186 views

Who is “Sylvia” in Steinbeck's “The Pastures of Heaven”?

This short passage is quoted from chapter II of J. Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven: George cared for his house and kept a flower garden in front of it. The upper story of the house had never ...
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22 views

Is there any significance to the format of Aziz's name?

One of the main protagonists in the outer frame story of Elif Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love is a man named Aziz Z. Zahara. This name immediately struck me because of its interesting relationship ...
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26 views

How to distinguish between imagery and symbolism?

I know that symbolism and imagery are the two powerful devices of modern literature, especially of poetry but a problem arises when I try to have a clear understanding of these devices. When a word or ...
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105 views

What is the effect of using “silver” to describe the “horn” in “Madman's Song” by William Rose Benét?

Here is the poem "Madman's Song" by William Rose Benét: Better to see your cheek grown hollow, Better to see your temple worn, Than to forget to follow, follow, After the sound of a silver ...
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1answer
45 views

Symbolism in “The Jewel of the Secret Treasury”?

The poem "The Jewel of the Secret Treasury" by the famous Persian poet Hafez reads very much like a love poem, but I'm failing to pick up on the precise details of the metaphor: The jewel of the ...
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Religious symbolism of the Telmarines?

The religious symbolism in C.S. Lewis's Narnia books is well known and, in many cases, very clear: Aslan is Jesus, the Calormenes are a very stereotypical portrayal of Muslims, the Dwarfs may ...
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215 views

Bright Lights, Big City: Why is the story Coma Baby included in the novel?

In Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, in which way does the story of the Coma Baby symbolises the life of the main character? Why has the author included it?
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What role or symbolic purpose do polar bears serve in The North Water?

The North Water by Ian McGuire is a modern novel in the tradition of historical realism, set in the high arctic. It is a violent, masculine novel with a clear debt to the work of Cormac McCarthy which ...
2
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1answer
77 views

What does flying represent in “O Daedalus, Fly Away Home”?

In "O Daedalus, Fly Away Home", Robert Hayden makes reference to flying back to Africa. In the second to last stanza, he says: My gran. he flew back to Africa, just spread his arms and flew ...
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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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138 views

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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1answer
538 views

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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1answer
276 views

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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How is black being portrayed in “Black, Their Regalia” by Darcie Little Badger?

Black features fairly prominently in "Black, Their Regalia" by Darcie Little Badger - it's in the title, and black is fairly prominent throughout the story. The Apparently Siblings play neoclassical ...
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525 views

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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241 views

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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417 views

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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1answer
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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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226 views

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 ...
7
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1answer
333 views

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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2answers
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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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1answer
163 views

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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78 views

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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1answer
431 views

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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1answer
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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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1answer
653 views

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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223 views

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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1answer
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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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1answer
66 views

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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2answers
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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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638 views

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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1answer
64 views

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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1answer
536 views

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". ...