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SYMBOLISM IN

LITERATURE
What is symbolism?
 Symbolism is when the author uses an object
or reference to add deeper meaning to a story.
 Symbolism is used to provide meaning to the
writing beyond what is actually being
described.
 A symbol can enhance a theme, idea or a
character.
We have studied
 Colors
 Objects
 Pieces of nature like the water or the sky

 What else can be used for symbols?


Parts of the DAY can be symbolic
of life..
 For example, morning is the start of the day,
and the start of life.
 Night is often used to symbolize old age or
approaching death.
 Think of the Elie Wiesel’s novel Night,
 why do you think he titled it that?
Seasons can do the same
thing…
 What part of life would Spring represent?
 What about Summer?
 Fall?
 And finally, Winter?
SO SYMBOLS CAN TELL
US ABOUT
CHARACTERS, PLOT,
IDEAS AND THEMES.
But how?
Let’s look at some examples of literature that uses
symbols.
A theme may be represented
through symbols.
 For example, a storm occurring when there is
a conflict or high emotions.
 Why do you think Dorothy was caught up in a
tornado in Kansas and swept away to Oz?
 What had her so upset before the storm hit?
 Harry Potter also has a lot of symbolism. One
clear symbol is that of a snake to represent
evil. It is no coincidence that they symbol of
Slytherin House is a serpent.
The Raven….
 Edgar Allan Poem used
a lot of symbols in his
literature. One of his
most famous poems,
The Raven, had a dark,
sinister bird watching
over him like a dark
shadow. Why do you
think in the poem about
loss and death did Poe
use a dark raven rather
than a dove?
Star Wars
 Have you ever seen Star
Wars. Why do you think Luke
SkyWalker wears white and
Darth Vader wears all black?
What do those colors
symbolize? How do they show
us more meaning about the
characters?
Raisin in the Sun…

 Another famous story of a family struggling is called


Raisin in the Sun. In this story Mama has a plant
which sits on the window sill.
 What does a plant need to survive other than water?
 Sunlight, yes!
 What might the sunlight be a symbol of as it tries to
help the plant grow?
 What about hope or having a need filled? Those work.
And, what does a plant do? It grows. So the plant can
also be a symbol of growth.
You’re a Mean One…

 The Grinch dresses up as Santa Claus and sneaks


into town to steal all of the food, presents, and even
the Christmas trees in Who-ville.
 To him, this was symbolic of Christmas.
 He wanted to steal Christmas. But, he fails.
 All of the Whos who live in Who-ville still wake up on
Christmas morning just as joyful as ever. They lift up
another symbol of Christmas. Their song! It forces
the Grinch to think that “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…
means a little bit more”
So what does that symbolism do?
It teaches a moral
 Too often, children lack the
understanding of the real
meaning of Christmas. Everyone
gets caught up in the commercial
aspect of Christmas and forget
the true reason for the holiday.
They just want the gifts.
 In this story, Dr. Seuss is putting
emphasis on that real meaning of
Christmas. When the Who’s wake
up and are joyful despite the
Grinch’s visit, it shows that the
presents really do not matter.
Symbols are used in a lot of Fairy
Tales.
 There are many examples of food as
symbolism in the German fairy tale Hansel and
Gretel. The story begins with a lack of food.
The woodcutter’s wife convinces her reluctant
husband to take two children out into the
woods so they will not have so many mouths
to feed.
 Lost in the woods, the children use
bread crumbs to mark their way home.
So the bread is a symbol of a way
home.
 However, they find the birds have eaten
the crumbs and ruined their trail. While
wandering in the woods, they come
across a cottage built of gingerbread,
which they begin to eat. The
gingerbread house with its sugary
sweetness is a false haven. In other
words, they think they have found
safety in food, but it is not real safety.
They think it represents the wealth
being the rich as opposed to the poor
family’s lack of enough to go around.
So food is seen throughout the
story.
 Food has different meanings for the characters
in the story. Bread symbolizes home and
comfort, which the children have lost. To the
birds, bread is food and to the old witch the
children are the makings of her next meal. The
children triumph when the witch is tricked by
Gretel and pushed into the fire.
The Road Not Taken

And both that morning equally


lay
In leaves no step had
trodden black.
Oh, I marked the
first for another day!
Yet
knowing how way leads on to
way
I doubted if I should ever
come back.

I shall be telling
this with a sigh
Somewhere
ages and ages hence:
Two
roads diverged in a wood, and
I,
I took the one less traveled
by,
And that has made all the
difference.

-Robert Frost
Let’s look at some of the lines in
this poem.
Based on this
line, what
time of year
is it?
If I said that
time of year
represented
part of your
life, what part
of your life
would it be?
The traveler
is staring
down a path
that split in
two. What
could that
represent?
Let’s Think…
 Yellow is a FALL color.
 If life is broken into the seasons: Spring,
Summer, Fall and Winter, the fall is later in life,
but not quite old age.
 The path split in two could represent having to
make a decision or a choice in life.
Notice…

Notice the Traveler’s


description of the two
paths.

The first path he


looked down until it
bent in the
undergrowth. That
means he could see
the path a long way
until it turned. The
second was “grassy
and wanted wear”.
This means that the
ground was
smoother. There
was grass, but you
couldn’t tell if anyone
had walked on it
much.

If it “wanted wear” it
seems that no one
had been that way.
He doesn’t say that
about the first path.
So, when he says he
choose the one “less
traveled” it means he
choose the one
where he didn’t see
many people had
walked on it.
Frost finishes with a lesson…

The roads  Two roads diverged in a wood, and


split and he
took the one I,
I took the one less traveled
that fewer
people had by,
And that has made all the
traveled on.
If the road is
difference
a path in life,
it means he
didn’t follow
the crowd.
He choose
his own
path. And
that is what
has made all
the
difference.
So you see, symbolism can develop a
character, or as in The Road Not Taken, it can
develop a theme.
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire, 
Some say
in ice. 
From what I've tasted of desire 
I hold
with those who favor fire. 
But if it had to perish
twice, 
I think I know enough of hate 
To say
that for destruction ice 
Is also great 
And would
suffice.
-Robert Frost
 What do you think  What do you think
Fire could be a Ice could be a
symbol of? symbol of?

Why?
What do they make you think
when you read that poem?
Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is


gold, Where is the symbolism?

Her hardest hue to hold.  What do you think


“first green”
Her early leaf's a flower; symbolizes?
But only so an hour.  What else makes you
Then leaf subsides to think it is spring?
leaf.  What part of life does
spring represent?
So Eden sank to grief,  What does it mean
So dawn goes down to then that nothing gold
day. can stay?
Nothing gold can stay.
Y’all have done a great job
finding and explaining the use of
symbols in literature!