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Prepared by: Pat Johnson
Posted on: Sun, 18 Mar 2001
Authors use symbolism on many different levels in stories. It is
characters, images, actions, and places. Some examples of common
are rivers, ocean, sky, flowers, trees and bridges. Symbols are images,
objects, or events that represent something else.
How a symbol is used can change or influence its meaning. A symbol
developed from a common image or from a unique one, like the sled named
Rosebud in Citizen Kane. Two powerful symbols that are more common are
in the novel Lord of the Flies; where the symbols were the flies and
pig's head. They symbolize the breakdown of society, and the
of death and murder. A river is a common symbol that is perhaps
yet it is a unique and fresh symbol in the novel A River Runs Through
The symbol may be easily understood by the reader, or less
understood and more abstract. If the symbol enhances the meaning of the
story, then the reader will understand the author.
In 300 words or less, write a scene with a symbol that is central to
story. Try to find a symbol that has not been overused. Remember, if
symbol is too abstract, or misrepresented, then the symbolism will be
If you reveal too many details, then the symbol becomes too obvious.
fun with this.
Pat Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: Sat, 24 Mar 2001
Hello Members of Practice-W,
Everyone who submitted or critiqued deserves applause, this exercise
easy. I thought all of the critiques were excellent. Some critters
on how tough it was to find the symbolism, and as Tracy Schumaker
critiquing was about as difficult as writing a submission using
Good work everyone.
The submissions varied. Some symbols were familiar ones like nature,
animals, light and water. Others were more unique like the symbol x, a
rocking chair or a jacket. Both kinds could be made to have a very
symbolic meaning or to be more abstract. Both were found in the
When reading and critiquing sometimes more symbols were found than
intended. Also, sometimes the reader found no symbolism present in the
submission. Symbols can be present in a story although unknown to the
author. The unconscious creative mind comes through in symbolism. I
noticed how my life experiences made certain symbols more meaningful.
Symbolism can be very personal and mean different things to different
readers. I wonder how this will affect all of our future writings.
Thanks to each of you for participating in the symbolism exercise. I
each of you learned from and enjoyed the exercise.
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