There's a problem with symbols?

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"Here's the problem with symbols: people expect them to mean something"(Foster 97). 
I believe many high school students would disagree with this statement. I know from past experience that in high school symbolism was one of the main ideas my teachers focused on. Many concepts or ideas from texts had symbolism that could take on a wide range of meanings depending on how the reader is grasping the overall read. In the transition to college I have come to realize yes there may be symbolism in texts but we can no longer devote a paragraph in a five paragraph essay to this symbolism and then how maybe that symbolism is foreshadowing and so on... My overall feeling about symbolism is that it depends on the reading level you are reading at to determine the importance.

4 Comments

Kayley Dardano said:

I agree with Juliana when she says that it depends on the reading level. some symbols have to be more obvious to a young reader. Even some people have to be high scholars to comprehend all of the symbolism in a book. Sometimes the symbolism is made up in the readers mind that the writer didn't even intend for.

Angelica Guzzo said:

I couldn't agree with you more. In high school I was praised for my knowlegde of pointing out symbolism. I often wondered how my teachers found so much meaning in just one word. I also agree now that we are in college we need to move past just poiniting out symbolism.

Right... humans are very good at symbolic thinking -- looking at a flag and thinking about patriotism, or looking at a series of marks on paper and conjuring up sentences, paragraphs, and whole worlds in our heads. But identifying what a symbol "could" mean isn't enough -- you need to demonstrate that the individual thing you're talking about is part of a whole network of meanings that are embedded in the text. Part of that network may be placed there deliberately, and part may be part of the nature of the genre (romantic poetry, dark comedy, etc.), and part will be put there because the author has been acted on by various forces (race, class, gender, region, family life) that will affect the author's creative process.

Your high school teachers weren't doing anything wrong when they praised you for identifying symbols -- they were preparing you for the more advanced thinking that you would need to exhibit down the road.

Juliana Coc said:

I am in agreement with Jerz when he commented on how identifying symbolism is one part in the networking process. Yes, we do need to be aware of symbols, but we need to be able to apply it to the overall reason/understanding of the text.

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