Maybe you have wondered making your essay entertaining and interesting by changing only some lines? Symbolism is a great tool to improve your paper in a sophisticated way. In this article, we shall introduce you to symbolism and approaches to use it inside your own writing effortlessly.

What Is Symbolism?

Symbolism is a tool used to provide objects a deeper meaning and another quality by using a symbol. Symbols are deeply rooted inside our speech without us noticing because they enhance our conversation, make sentences elaborate and exemplify things we discuss more vividly.

For example: A dove is just a symbol of peace, a black cat signifies misfortune, and a white flag means a peace offering.

Most symbols are universal and certainly will be comprehended by individuals from different countries and backgrounds. However , a number of them are culturally specific one should be careful in order to not offend anybody or be misunderstood.

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How Symbolism Is Used in Literature

Certain objects and terms signify things which are different from their literal sense. Often, symbolism is employed in order to give deeper and much more significant meaning to events, objects and characters through the text, unify them, and provide certain connotations. Authors incorporate symbolism to state complicated concepts visually and show a thread of certain ongoing themes inside their writing. Since, in most cases, symbols that are used are hidden in the writing, they force the reader to engage in critical thinking. It makes the reader wonder about the metaphorical use of one or one other object as a symbol. If the theme of a book or an essay might be painful and sensitive to certain people, symbolism also comes in handy. It can help express ideas that the author desires to address through the prism of emblematic, as opposed to speaking about controversial things openly.

Yet another reason a writer may choose to use symbolism in his work would be to create different levels of meaning in his story. This meaning isn't only literal, but additionally deeper. It connects the reader along with his story on a different, an emotional level, besides just telling the story. Readers, on the other hand, prefer to discover these hidden symbolic ties and meanings, since it gives them a chance to peek into the writer’s mind and obtain a sense of what intentions he had in creating them.

All sorts of things that symbolism lets a writer introduce his audience to a thought in an interesting poetic way that does not share the idea straight away, luring the reader in to his world full of beautiful implications and complicated ties.

Types of Symbolism in Literature

There are various literary devices that help writers to utilize symbolism within their texts:


Metaphor is a form of figurative language that shows traits of an interest through comparison with something different, their likeness or contrast between them.
An excellent example of a metaphor are available at the opening words of “As You Like It”, a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare:

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances ...”

Here, he compares human life to a theatre stage. Same as such a thing can happen in life, a stage may have all kinds of different plays portrayed. The play will also be over sooner or later, just like life. By making this simple comparison, that he explains the complicated and difficult laws of nature, such as human mortality. The last phrase refers to people’s ties and their meaning in each other’s lives as “exits” and “entrances”.


This is a figure of speech used when something gets assigned some qualities of one other and is compared to it. The two are often compared to the other person with the use of the phrase “as” or “like”. It may sound just like a metaphor, but the latter gives merely a slight implication that something is like something different, whereas a simile directly states it. A great exemplory instance of a simile can be found in “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov:

“Elderly American ladies leaning on the canes listed towards me like towers of Pisa. ”

Here Nabokov says that ladies’ canes remind him directly of the tower of Pisa — a building in Pisa, Italy, that's tilted sideways. This beautiful simile showcases artist’s elaborate way of expressing his thoughts, how educated and developed he is, but most importantly, provides the reader still another visual of how these canes made him feel and how they might seem like.


Still another literary device that helps you to use symbolism is an allegory. It is also just like a metaphor, but expresses the meaning of the object, its significance, in place of an external characteristic of likeness. Through the association that allegory creates with the characters in writing, the reader gets a sense of how a situation or a problem at stake gels the history of the world, art history, or even a certain culture.

A good exemplory case of allegory in literature is “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. There he compares society around him to a group of kids who are stuck on a deserted island due to a plane crash, and so are trying to survive there. The island in the book represents the planet itself, the conch is really a symbol of law and order, the fire represents destruction. Each young one, with his role and character, represents a particular societal imperfection, depicting people’s flaws in the institutions of religion, politics, morality, and many others.

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An archetype is another literary device used to represent a human behavioral pattern that is frequently universal across the world and can be employed and comprehended in many cultures. The archetype can also be a location in space and time, a certain theme that is shared collectively by citizens of the world. Many archetypes arrived to literature from folk art and fairy tales.

One of the more common and famous archetypes is the hero. Some of the traits defining a hero include mysterious circumstances of their birth, struggle and proving everybody else who lost faith included wrong, tragic events all through their lives, and complicated and dangerous adventures. A fantastic example of an archetype is Harry Potter, the main character of the series by J. K. Rowling. That he was orphaned by the cruel dark wizard Lord Voldemort and fought him throughout the book series.


An allusion can be used to imply something or refer to yet another mythological, religious, or historical character without directly mentioning them. The usage of allusion allows an author to deliver his text using elaborate language. Different rhetorical figures force readers to include their back ground knowledge and associate the type or problem in question with external references.

In his book “Fahrenheit 451”, Ray Bradbury runs on the reference to a historical tragedy that happened in 79 A. D. near the city of Pompeii, Italy, where a volcano called Vesuvius erupted and killed the whole population, leaving the city covered in ashes.

"Mildred ran from the parlor like a indigenous fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius. "

Applying this explicit allusion, Bradbury explains that Mildred was running away from something terrible, as fast as she could, because it would otherwise have killed her — the same as every inhabitant of Pompeii.


Hyperbole is used in text to be able to exaggerate somebody’s trait or characteristic, such as for example power, beauty, wealth, influence, strength, and many more. Hyperbole frequently has an amusing effect used to help readers visualize the strong points of the written text. An example of hyperbole would be a line from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”:

“I had to hold back in the station for ten days — a long time. ”

So that you can indicate how painful, worrisome, and exhausting it was for the character to attend in the station for ten days, he even compares to an eternity. It absolutely was only 10 days but felt considerably longer given the circumstances.

Conventional Symbols in Literature

A number of the symbols in literature are incorporated in culture so deeply they became old-fashioned — clear to just about anyone, because they create images and moods immediately after being mentioned.

Colors frequently suggest certain emotions and characteristics with powerful meanings: red — anger, blood, love, or passion; blue — calmness and satisfaction; green — wealth, jealousy, nature; white — purity, innocence, spiritualism; purple — royalty and many more.

Seasons generally pertain to age: spring — youth and freshness, start of something new; winter — elderly people if not death, the zenith of one’s life; summer — the peak of development, prime of life; fall — decay, negative change, middle life, growing older.

There are many other everyday life things that involve symbolism: light — good, hope, and freedom; darkness — bad luck, tragedy, evil, the unknown; wind — change in life, speed, transition, inability to alter things, destruction; rainbow — a cure for the better.

Some objects and animals also can carry symbolic meaning: dove — peace; snake – evil; horse — phallic sexuality; a ring — fidelity, happiness; a broken mirror — bad luck and misfortune; a chain — unity or imprisonment.

Ways to Use Symbolism in Writing

Once we saw earlier in the day, there are many different literary tools that will help use symbolism in your own writing. Understanding of their function and examples can help you embed them in your essay. Symbolism has numerous functions on paper.

A number of the things it is possible to create in your essays with symbolism are adding emotion. In “Night” by Ellie Wiesel, the concept of night, its darkness and mystery is used as a symbol of negative emotions, tragedy, despair, and death suffered by incarcerated Jews in the concentration camp.

Another role it might play in your paper is connecting themes. In “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, along with green is employed throughout the whole book to suggest wealth and lust for money, a desire of having rich in spite of any moral dilemmas, a luxury life style, and grandeur.

You might also be interested in reading «The Great Gatsby book through Daisy Buchanan character»

Defining a character is another thing an individual might achieve while using symbolism. In Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” the character of Tom is suggested to be innocent, because that he was hurt, but that he, like a mockingbird, is harmless.

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but... sing their hearts out for us. That is why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. "

The easiest method to include symbols in your essay is always to do so an individual will be done writing and can try to find places where it can be incorporated best out from the whole body of text. Certainly not should symbolism be most of your focus of writing. As an alternative, you should give attention to the strong points of the story and its characters. Symbolism is just a beautification of an item that is already strong. It only enables you to enhance the story, make it alive and vivid, and showcase its complexity to the reader.


It's not extremely difficult to use symbolism in your own writing. Metaphor, allegory, hyperbole, allusion, archetype, and all the other literary devices discussed in this article are superb aids to produce your essay a beautiful bit of literature. An easy comparison of just one thing to a different can enhance the writing tremendously, flaunt your semantic skills, and make the writing beautiful over all, like a flower. See what I did there? Not that hard, I presume.

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