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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Examples of “canonical questions” in different cultures [closed]

This question will be rather odd. I have been thinking about this topic for a while, and this is the type of question that really cannot be answered without hearing people from different backgrounds. ...
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Symbolism of the name Red Rose in Chapter 8 of The Scarlet Letter

In Chapter VIII of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter, The Elf-Child and the Minister, the name Red Rose serves as a symbol of their shared passion and love. "Pearl?—Ruby, rather—or ...
Arunabh Bhattacharya's user avatar
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In Bradbury's short story, how can a city be built in the shape of the wind?

“The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind” is a short story by Ray Bradbury, first published in 1953. It tells the tale of two neighboring Chinese cites, ruled by emperors who continually attempt to foil each ...
Clara Diaz Sanchez's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
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What is the symbolism of the name 'Llewelyn Moss' in "No Country for Old Men"?

One of the lead characters in No Country For Old Men is named Llewelyn Moss. I find the surname striking. I wonder if McCarthy meant something by it. Moss, the plant, grows on trees. And so I ...
Jason P Sallinger's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
140 views

"But there is one more (question) that I daresay you are burning to put to myself; and that is, what your own name is doing in this place"

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Epilogue, passage 425/427, published 1892) (Passage 425) But there is one more (question; added by me) that I daresay you are burning ...
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What is the symbolism of the last red flower in 'A Red Flower'?

What is the symbolism of the last red flower in this short story (titled A Red Flower) about madness? I suspect it means, in a fragmentary way, to show that love kills us, and the one we die with will ...
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4 votes
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Symbolism in saying that a grove, in the agitation of a storm, cannot be delineated from its picture in water

In the book The Information - A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick, there is a portion of text which speaks about the gradually increasing meanings/senses attached to verbs like go, make, take ...
Anirban Chakraborty's user avatar
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1 answer
176 views

What did Arthur C Clarke mean when he described the builders of Comarre as being the "Decadents"?

In Arthur C. Clarke's "The Lion of Comarre", the faction that built the city are referred to as being the Decadents by the protagonist, and by several other characters who acted as narrators ...
Aaargh Zombies's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
152 views

What is the story behind the hierogram on the Isle of Thorns in A Game of You?

Like it says on the tin: What's going on with the stone and Japanese text here in Sandman No. 36?
lly's user avatar
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Far from the Madding Crowd: "sexual symbolism intended to cock a snook at Victorian prudery"?

This Guardian review of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (and its two film adaptations of 1967 and 2015) says that: the plot also contains elements which are far from warm or sunny: murder, ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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Symbolism in the final lines of Yeats' Song of Wandering Aengus

Yeats' early poem The Song of Wandering Aengus is a poetic retelling of a famous Irish myth as I explored in this question. It's also a metaphor in which Aengus' quest for his fae lover is compared to ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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What's the symbolism of the Cid's beard?

The book El "Cantar de Mio Cid" y la épica medieval española by Alan Deyermond, at page 37, mentions el simbolismo de la barba del Cid that is, "the symbolism of the Cid's beard",...
Charo's user avatar
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How intentional are symbols, and do we ever know that the author meant the reader to interpret them in a certain way?

To avoid this question being overly broad, I will connect it to a specific book. In Catcher in the Rye, Holden frequently wonders where the ducks in Central Park go for the winter. When I read the ...
nuggethead's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
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Why does Doctor Faustus ask for only 24 years of life?

In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the doctor essentially sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 years of luxurious life with Mephistopheles at his beck and call. Why does he ask for only 24 years? ...
Tom's user avatar
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Is there a term for an item in a period piece that is used as a stand in for a more modern equivalent?

The most obvious example I could think of, was the Flintstone's "car". Obviously cars didn't exist at the time. (Neither did most of the things in the Flintstone's lives - which I think is ...
Brandon Bratcher's user avatar
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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 ...
Hauke Reddmann's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
328 views

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 ...
thetrueembodimentofstupidity's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
350 views

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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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 ...
Kiteration's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
423 views

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 "...
Jordan's user avatar
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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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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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2 votes
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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 ...
Victorique's user avatar
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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-...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
Alex's user avatar
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8 votes
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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 ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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3 votes
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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
444 views

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 ...
Rafiullah's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
633 views

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 ...
SNR's user avatar
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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,...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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 ...
James's user avatar
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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 ...
bobble's user avatar
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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2 votes
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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 ...
Roger Smith's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
bobble's user avatar
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5 votes
0 answers
298 views

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 ...
chameleon's user avatar
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19 votes
1 answer
3k views

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 ...
chameleon's user avatar
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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....
Tsundoku's user avatar
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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 ...
Amarylis Vaselaar's user avatar
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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 ...
Anirban Saha's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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 ...
Nathan Dai's user avatar
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?
Literature Today's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
508 views

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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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, ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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1 vote
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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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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