Is that a symbol? Well DUH!

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"The other problem with symbols is that many readers expect them to be ojects and images rather than events or actions.  Action can also be symbolic (Foster 105)."

Sometimes symbols can be rather confusing. You see someone pick up a washcloth, and you're like oh no.  Did I miss something? Was that a simple for cleansing their soul?  Washing out the profanity of their youth?  It has to mean SOMETHING!

The truth of the matter is, is that there isn't really a wrong answer to that.  As long as you can support it with some kind of evidence, you'll make your interpretation stand.  But something that I've noticed is that normally people assume symbols to just be a stationary object.  While this is trust most of the time, there can and will still be symbols in action.  For example, a prom queen candidate killing her competitor because she is competition.  Naturally this could symbolize insanity, but look a little deeper.  It could symbolize vanity, low self esteem, etc. 

"Here is the problem with symbols?: people expect them to mean something.  Not just any something, but one something in particular.  Exactly.  MAxium.  You know what? It doesn't work like that (Foster 97-98)."

Bottom line. Be creative.  Look for the unexpected.  Find what works for you.  If a certain action, or object means something to you or the characters, chances are you're right.  Just be able to speak your mind when others question you.

 

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3 Comments

Well put, Stephanie!

Greta Carroll said:

Stephanie, you make a good point. It is not just about thinking that something is symbolic, we have to be able to support why we think it is too. And I like how you stress the fact that not just something can be symbolic, but that actions can be too. These actions could very easily escape a reader, unless, as you comment, the reader uses their imagination and doesn’t let themselves stay captive to the usual idea of what a symbol should be and what it should stand for. We need to be creative and count on the author to be so as well.

Maddie Gillespie said:

My dear, I do believe that you've accurately summarized our previous lesson and in a clear manner to boot. I definitely appreciate your insight, not to mention the fact that I happen to agree with you. As a reader, you can't always go overboard looking for hidden clues and symbolism. You have to find that which speaks to you, or maybe your neighbor if you think you're only seeing a partial part of the picture.

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