Question suggested by Barbara H:
My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.
It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?
I think that an author’s use of literary devices, such as symbolism, is what separates literature from fiction.
This is the problem I have with a lot of YA literature, I don’t think it is truly literature. Don’t get me wrong, some definitely are. The Book Thief, definitely. Twilight, not so much. But hey, I read Confessions of a Shopaholic, so if you want to read a vampire book, go ahead. Just don’t call either “literature”.
Okay, but to get back to the question as hand. Excessive description? Do you mean imagery? Again, a device that is used for a purpose. Often imagery connects to symbolism. Look at The Great Gatsby. The imagery associated with Daisy Buchanan is symbolic. Everything is white, billowing, breezy, her laughter has a charm to it that draws men toward her, her voice is “full of money”. The green light at the end of Gatsby’s dock? Don’t even get me started on what that symbolizes. In The Catcher in the Rye you have a main character who wants everything to same the same, he wants to preserve the innocence of all the children everywhere. Is it a coincidence that his favorite place to go is the museum where nothing ever changes? Is it a coincidence that he wrote his history essay on mummies? I don’t think so. This my dear friends, is symbolism.
So, to answer your question. No, I don’t think there is as much symbolism as English teachers think there is. I THINK THERE”S MORE!!!