Allegory is a type of literary device that is used by writers when they would want to express and present abstract ideas and qualities through the characters and events that they write. Writers would make use of allegory when they have a message they want to convey but would rather keep it hidden or even complex through whatever symbolic actions, imagery, or events, that, when working together, could create a significant connection/meaning.
Usually, the characters in allegories are often animals or objects that are given human characteristics such as feelings or thoughts but it differs from personification because these animals that the literary device personification does not do. It is hard to express and describe abstract ideas and principles, but when you would express it through the use of allegory, you will find it easy to do so. The abstract ideas and principles, with the help of allegory, will become easier to comprehend by its readers.
1. In one of Aesop’s fables, which is the “The Tortoise and The Hare,” we may have heard of its popular moral that goes “slow but steady wins the race.” The slow and steady is represented and symbolized by the Tortoise while the opposite of it was symbolized by the Hare who had a hasty and overconfident approach that eventually led to his downfall.
2. In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the author was able to pack the entire novel with a lot of allegorical meanings. Orwell used animals who have taken over a farm in order to represent that taking over of communism and the repressive control over the former Soviet Union citizens.
3. In the short story “A White Heron,” the use of allegory was shown through the representation of ideas and concepts the author wanted to convey through the characters and events. The White represented purity or virginity which in turn represents the white heron as something that symbolized the pure and rural life. The hunter that is a character of the story is the intruder.
4. The allegory in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” tells of a story about Sin and how she gave birth to Death after getting impregnated by Satan who is also her own father. Tragic, right? but what makes this story more tragic is the fact that each character is highly symbolic as well as are their relationships with one another. The allegory, in a simple sense, goes like this: Satan gave rise to Sin and with Sin, gave rise to Death. It is in this passage that the author described how Sin gave birth to Death:
“At last this odious offspring whom thou seest
Thine own begotten, breaking violent way
Tore through my entrails, that with fear and pain
Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew
Transform’d: but he my inbred enemy
Forth issu’d, brandishing his fatal Dart
Made to destroy: I fled, and cry’d out Death;
Hell trembl’d at the hideous Name, and sigh’d
From all her Caves, and back resounded Death.”
5. The moral allegory in Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queen” which is about Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.
6. The religious allegory in John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” which is about a Christian’s spiritual journey toward salvation.
7. The complex allegory in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” which is about the French Revolution as well as the Romantic ideal of creativity.
8. The social allegory in Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” which is about the modern individual’s alienation from the society.
9. Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper” also made use of this literary device. The fable tells of a story about a playful grasshopper who chose playing over working hard like what the ant had been doing all day long during the spring and summer season. The grasshopper would often tease the ant about wasting his life away working but when the winter season came, lucky for the ant because he had saved food all throughout winter but for the grasshopper’s case, he fell into a tragic death. The allegory here is that those who will be able to brace and prepare for themselves will be able to survive whatever challenges would come in their way.
4. The allegory in Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneeches” is a powerful one which is all about bigotry and racism.
You might think that symbols and allegory are just the same things since allegory would make use of a symbol. However, it’s just that—allegory only uses symbols but it’s different from symbolism. This is because allegory is used in a complete narrative which could involve characters and events that would stand to represent an idea or event that is abstract.
A symbol is an object that represents another object and in the process, gives the object a particular meaning and it does not tell a story at all, unlike an allegory.
In an allegory, you turn abstract thought ideas with no material representation into something that is concrete while symbol would only use concrete to represent a reality that has a deeper and profound meaning.
In an allegory, you would obviously see the point of reference whereas symbols can possibly have a variety of meanings and such meanings can become ambiguous at times.
It has been previously discussed that allegories are not symbols in itself but it makes use of symbols. Allegories use symbolism in various ways to the point that it is definitely not possible for you to categorize all of these; however, you sure can categorize and group it into two categories. While the basic technique used in both categories are similar, each character and event may mean and symbolize different things and these are:
Aside from symbolism, some people would also get confused between allegory and parable since both have similarities such as the heavy use of symbolism in order to convey whatever meaning they want to get across to their target audience or readers. However, these two are actually two different things and they differ in the following:
Both differ when it comes to Morality: Take not that parables are didactic, which means that these are intended for teaching someone about something, which means that in every end of a parable, there will always be a moral or lesson that the parable will be able to teach its listener or reader. For example, famous religious figures Jesus and Buddha made use of parables when imparting their beliefs to their disciples or followers. However, allegories, on the other hand, do not not necessarily have a moral at the end of the story and can be simply just be about and concerned on retelling a historical event or the life of a real person from a particular perspective, or just be about conveying a complex idea about the world without having to turn it into something that people will be learning and reflecting.
Both differ in length: Even if allegories could come as short as poems, it could also be as long as an entire book or even film whereas parables are always written and designed as short since its aim is to get a moral or lesson to easily get across and too much details could get the reader or the listener’s minds complicated.
Both differ in its subtlety: The thing about parables is that these are never subtle since, again, its main aim is to teach a moral lesson, which means that the symbolic meaning of a parable should always be clear to the readers or listeners. While for allegories, it can get subtle and subtle to the point that you are not fully aware that you were already being personally attacked by the writer since it will be mostly hard for readers to pick up whatever symbolic meaning that the writer wants to convey and get across to his or her readers.
There are authors who would make use of this literary device for multiple and varied reasons. But here are the usual reasons why authors would still choose writing allegories even if there are other literary devices they could choose from and make use of:
Planning now to make use of allegory as a literary device of whatever literary piece you are currently working on? That is seriously a great idea especially if you just do not want to be too direct when it comes to delivering whatever message that is you want to deliver. You can take note of the allegory examples that we have here in this article for you in case you would have a hard time in starting to make use of this literary device.