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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35
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3answers
12k views

Does Snape talk in code?

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Snape asks Harry many questions during his first Potions class. The first thing Snape asks Harry is “Potter! What would I get if I added powdered ...
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Is Judaism represented in the Narnia books?

In C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, it's very clear that the Narnians are meant to represent Christianity, with Aslan symbolising Jesus (in fact, Aslan is literally Jesus in-universe), while the Calormenes ...
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What is the symbolism of Atticus killing the mad dog?

So in To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus kills a mad dog. He does it with one shot. Is there some more symbolism to this or is it just an event?
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What's the significance of “Oranges and Lemons” in 1984?

The popular London nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons is quoted and partially recited several times throughout 1984. Winston learns about it from Mr Charrington in Part 1, Chapter 8, then talks about it ...
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Why are Orcs associated with the colors red, yellow, and black in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings?

In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series, Sauron, and characters allied with Sauron, are frequently associated with the colors red, yellow, and black. For example, here is a description of the ...
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Who does the cat represent in Animal Farm?

It's well known that various characters represent real Soviet figures. Who does the cat, who is fond of shirking physical work but enjoys reaping the rewards, represent? Does the cat even have any ...
21
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2answers
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Why were these animals used to represent the different countries in Maus?

In Art Spiegelman's Maus, he represents different people from different countries as different animals. For instance, he represents the Jews as mice, the Germans as cats, the Polish as pigs, the ...
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1answer
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What is the symbolism of the final rise of the Kraken?

I've been studying a lot of Tennyson, and I recently read The Kraken. The first 12 lines seem relatively straightforward, describing the giant beast that sleeps at the bottom of the sea, but the final ...
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227 days in Life of Pi, coincidence or symbolical?

I'm wondering whether it is known whether the 227 days in Life of Pi symbolical is for pi or that the symbolism I see (as a mathematician :)) is pure coincidence. I think that it is symbolic for pi ...
16
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3answers
499 views

What is the significance of the anisotropic highway and the skeleton of a fascist chained to a machine gun?

In the beginning of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's novel Hard to Be a God, the protagonist, Anton, goes down a country road, disobeying a "wrong way" sign, and finds a skeleton of a fascist chained to ...
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What do the other farmers symbolize in Animal Farm?

I asked this question on the old literature site, it got migrated to the science fiction and fantasy site, and then was later closed as off-topic. I figured that I might as well ask the question here. ...
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1answer
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What is the bananafish? What does it represent?

In J.D. Salinger's A Perfect Day For Bananafish, Seymour, the main character, talks about a bananafish. He tells a little girl about the bananafish. The little girl says she sees the fish. What is ...
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What is the “Neon god” in “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel?

In Simon and Garfunkel's song The Sound of Silence1, there is the following passage in lyrics: And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made What is this neon god? Obviously, they ...
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Did the mechanical hound signify anything in Fahrenheit 451?

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is written with many recurring symbols. After reading the book, I never thought that the mechanical hound was one of them, though my friend told me otherwise. Did the ...
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Why is black evil and white good?

This trope appears everywhere in literature - especially in fantasy. Everywhere you turn, black means bad and white means good. This is particularly true when applied to people, or the consequences of ...
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What does the letter V in Thomas Pynchon's book symbolize?

Obviously, V. is a character in the book, known only by her initial. That initial is also the title of the book, which actually includes the period. But I assume this title/name symbolizes something ...
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Symbolism of Albus Dumbledore's name in Harry Potter

What is the symbolism of the name Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter? 'Albus' means white 'Dumbledore' is a type of bee What is this representing?
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Is Deeper Magic something more than God (the Emperor beyond the Sea) in Narnia?

When Aslan is asked why he has to die in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he answers something in the sense that there is a "deeper magic" that he has to obey. What exactly is this "deeper ...
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What does the raven symbolize (besides death)?

Whenever I ask a friend about the symbolism of the Raven from The Raven, they always seem to say death. Is that the only thing the Raven is meant to symbolize?
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Is there any textual evidence that this death in Deathly Hallows symbolized the end of childhood?

In the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we see that Hedwig is killed by the Avada Kedavra curse. "No - HEDWIG!" The broomstick spun to earth, but he just managed to seize the ...
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Who does Mollie represent in Animal Farm?

It's well known that various characters represent real Soviet figures. Who does Mollie, the horse sympathetic to the humans, represent? Is she just a generic non-Soviet sympathizer or does she ...
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2answers
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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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676 views

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, ...
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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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What did “Moloch” represent in Allen Ginsberg´s poem “Howl”?

In Allen Ginsberg´s poem "Howl", what did "Moloch" represent? What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Moloch! Solitude!...
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1answer
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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 ...
12
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1answer
491 views

Is there symbolism in Vronsky going bald in Anna Karenina?

As I am reading Anna Karinina I notice how as the story continues Vronsky is going bald. As characters meet him it is noted how he tries to hid his increasing baldness. For instance when Dolly goes ...
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1answer
536 views

What does the physical Scarlet Letter represent?

I love The Scarlet Letter, but I surprised to find out that I did not even know what it was supposed to represent. Its significance seemed to change throughout the book. Is there one central symbol ...
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Who or what does Benjamin the donkey represent in Animal Farm?

Benjamin is the old, irritable donkey who doesn't care who's in control, because he says that work will be the same either way. He is one of the few on the farm who can read, and who still remembers ...
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1answer
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What is the greater meaning of the thrush?

In 1984, Orwell devotes a few lines to a singing thrush that lands several feet away from Julia and Winston during their first secret meeting. A thrush had alighted on a bough not five metres ...
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1answer
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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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What does the “good night” symbolize in Dylan Thomas's “Do not go gentle into that good night”?

Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas, he begins with "Do not go gentle into that good night". He also uses this as one of two alternating refrains. In this poem, what does the "good ...
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1answer
917 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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What's the symbolism of the flowers in The Winter's Tale?

In Act IV, Scene IV of The Winter's Tale, Perdita is "mistress o' the feast", playing hostess at the sheep-shearing feast, when King Polixenes and Camillo arrive in disguise. Perdita gives them both ...
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1answer
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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 is “This is Just to Say” about?

In "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams, the speaker appears to deliver an apology for stealing the plums of the person at whom the poem is targeted. I have heard some people analyze this ...
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1answer
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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 ...
10
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1answer
650 views

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 ...
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1answer
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What does the “crimson hexagon” represent in “The Library of Babel”?

In The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges, the speaker says, They were urged on by the delirium of trying to reach the books in the Crimson Hexagon: books whose format is smaller than usual, all-...
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1answer
349 views

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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1answer
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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 is the symbolism of the conch in Lord of the Flies?

In the Lord of the Flies, the conch is shattered when Piggy dies. Before that, it was held by Ralph, the de facto leader of the boys. What does the conch symbolize?
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1answer
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Was Rand al'Thor supposed to be a symbol for Jesus?

Rand al'Thor has several moments that could be considered "biblical", including (spoilers): Has Robert Jordan ever commented on this? I am really looking for a quote by either Robert Jordan or ...
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1answer
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What is the meaning of the rescue of Tashtego?

In Moby Dick, Tashtego falls into the sinking head of a sperm whale from which the crew was extracting the spermaceti; he is saved by Queequeg who cuts the head and extracts Tashtego as if the head ...
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1answer
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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. ...
9
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1answer
378 views

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 ...
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The woods as a symbol in Young Goodman Brown

In the short story "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the main character spends a great deal of the story traveling through a "dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest"...
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1answer
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What does the rose represent in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner?

In A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, Faulkner never mentions rose as a noun, only as a past tense verb throughout the work. However, its position as one of two primary words within the title, ...
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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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1answer
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What concept of love does Tolstoy suggest in Anna Karenina?

I know one of the characteristics of realistic works is they are mostly formulated as some independent studies of the life of society but, at the same time, I realise that the dominant approach to art ...