Symbolism

, , Leave a comment


welcome to the screencast on symbolism. Make sure you have your note sheets out. Be ready to take take notes and, at various
points, you are going to pause this presentation to write down some thoughts for class tomorrow. alright so here we go. Symbolism is
meanings beyond the obvious. So what is a symbol? We see symbols all the time. It’s something that is one thing on the surface that stands for something much larger than itself: a deeper meaning. like: here is a cross. The cross is one thing on the surface, but it clearly has a lot of deep meaning — especially to members of the Christian faith. over here we have a strangely colored elephant. It has a deeper symbolic
meaning now in american politics just as the donkey over here does as well — it is a
donkey, but it is also the symbol the Democratic party. So a symbol is one thing on the surface but then on a deeper level it means more than that. Now with that in mind, here are a whole bunch of things that can hold symbolic meanings and they are things that we see all the time and there’s no necessarily right or
wrong way to interpret the symbol when you just look at a picture. I’ll give you a couple examples: the snake here. This is a classic symbol. It comes out of Genesis from the Old Testament, where the serpent was the force of evil . So snakes, a lot of times, in literature will represent evil. We will refer to someone as a snake in the grass if they are kind of sneaky. Similarly, the Dove tends to represent peace and – again – that’s from Genesis because the Dove goes out and finds a branch and brings it back to the arc and shows that they have found land and the flood is now going to recede. So that’s how symbolism works. It can have multiple meanings. We have an oak tree here. The tree might be a symbol of strength because they’re really tough to knock down if you ever try to run into one… It can be a symbol of longevity because of the way a tree can age. There’s all sorts of different levels of symbolism that can occur . so here’s what I want you to do: Pause this video and write down a list
of six objects on here – six of the things you see on here – and next to them put
what they could represent. More than just what they are, ok? Like over here this does not represent a cake which is on fire. It is a cake which is on fire but it
holds a deeper meaning for us, right? Right. Go ahead and do that, and – once
you’ve finished – then just click ahead. Start this up again and continue the
presentations. so here we go with the actual notes. In literature a symbol, just like what we saw in last page, means… more than it seems on the surface. OK, so on the surface you have an object or person or action… Something literal that’s going on some element of the story, but it’s more than that. It links to a deeper
meaning beneath the surface and here’s the key point: A symbol is a message from the author to the reader. Most of the time characters are not
aware of symbols — they don’t think about the symbols because the symbols don’t really involve them – they’re in the story. The symbol is hiding underneath what the
character is going through, and it’s a way… for the author to tell the reader about
some deeper messages in the story. That is absolutely critical — so keep that
in mind. So, what does that mean if it’s beyond the surface? let’s look at three different levels of meaning and stuff ok? First off, you can have an image — just something you see, something that… you can picture in the story : [example:] so a guy goes shopping for some fruit -bought an apple. ok big deal. He bought an apple, right? Piece of fruit. But that same Apple might be a metaphor if… someone says, “Oh, he is the apple of her
eye,” it’s not that this guy is literally… turned into a piece of fruit which has
been rammed into her face — that doesn’t make any sense… it’s kind of strange. What it means is that she likes him, that she’s focused on him … ok that’s a metaphor. Now a symbol has both of these levels: It has some sort of literal meaning, like the apple the guy went shopping for and a deeper meaning like the apple of her eye. So for example, in Genesis you have the forbidden fruit of
the tree of knowledge — the apple — and then that apple shows up all over the place
in literature, like in this image here… from the book Twilight. The Twilight
series. Why would they include an image of an apple? The stories are not about fruit, but yet on a deeper level there is something there: That’s symbolic. So why you symbolism? Authors use
symbolism to give meaning beyond the obvious, to really emphasize key ideas or
themes they are trying to get across. Now, as I go through these examples you don’t have to write down the examples. I’m putting them here so you can see the variety of meaning.
So maybe you have a river in a story — in fact those of you who read The Giver in
the springtime will see there’s a river in there that keeps coming up — it’s
clearly symbolic. So a river might mean the flow of life just as a… river keeps rolling its way along, life
keeps moving or if it’s deep and you can’t see beneath the surface, it might
represent the unknown. Thoreau, the poet, when he goes out on to Walden pond and
keeps trying to probe down into that ice it’s the depth of the water that’s
supposed to represent some of the depth of his own soul — he goes out there to
find himself, alright? Water could mean purity or the darkness may be hiding
dangers under the surface. Water can have many different meanings, depending
on the context of the story, and that’s a key point that I’ll come back to. Symbols
might draw attention to the plot. IF suddenly the character’s going down
into a tunnel and it’s getting darker, it could show movement from good to evil,
that something bad is coming. Edgar Allan Poe is great at that. In “The
Cask of Amontillado,” a character is being led slowly deeper and deeper into this dark,
dark catacomb; as he gets closer to his own death. He is being led into the darkest
part by the man he thinks is his friend. So the plot – that dark tunnel
represents his own death in the darkness of his friends soul a storm at a critical moment in a story
or movie can represent intense emotion, trouble coming, and then you get that
sort of classic cheesy ending when everything works out, all of a sudden
there’s a sun rising over the horizon and that dawn of a new day, right? It tells you that symbolically everything
is better now — there is light at the end of that dark tunnel. Symbolism, see? It
can also give insights into the characters. In Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” great story —
if you haven’t read Edgar Allan Poe, you gotta read some of it — in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” after the
guy buries his victim’s heart under the floorboards (he’s a little anti-social) he
keeps hearing the beating of the heart louder and louder and it’s his own guilt
that he can’t get away from. A character’s name might tell you
something about them, like in the story “The Lottery” a guy named Mr Graves is in
charge of the killing of people in his community, deciding who’s gonna die…
pretty obvious: his name’s Grave and he’s gonna stick people into them. A character’s appearance can even be
symbolic: returning to the Cask of Amontillado, the poor guy who gets killed is wearing
a fool’s costume during Mardi Gras. He’s dressed as a clown and of course he is a
total fool, entrusting the narrator and being brought to his own death. Even his
name – Fortunato – is kind of symbolic: as the last thing this guy is, is fortunate. So the key here in all of these examples is it’s not just this element — a beating heart, the name Grave
or the guy dressed as a fool — what gives these things the real symbolism is the
greater story as a whole. The key to understanding the symbol is understanding that story – the context. So, how do you spot a symbol? there’s no one way… but there are few things you can look
for: If something is used repeatedly – colors or objects that are mentioned
frequently, it’s probably important. You’ll see that in “Under the Persimmon Tree” the persimmon tree itself is mentioned again and again. The fruit and different
types of fruit come up again and again at key points in the story. The stars are
mentioned again and again. Character names in that story are symbolic. Look at what Najmah means, Nusrat — their names are very symbolic. The leopard that shows up early in the
story is symbolic. So all of these things through repetition demonstrate there is
something more going on here. You can also look for objects and creatures that
have cultural meanings. Lions, like we associate them with strength or wisdom.
Animals that occur at key moments in the story might be symbolic. In short,
what you’re looking for is things that are given unusual emphasis, that are repeated in the story, or given really important positions — like showing up at the
beginning and at the end of a story. Stuff like that is a pretty good clue
that the author is trying to tell you something. Just remember: a symbol is a
message from the author to the reader. Now here’s one warning about this. Many
symbols are personal interpretations. We can over interpret stuff. Like here’s an example — I love this little cartoon here from peanuts Lucy sitting here at her little psychiatrist desk and she’s been interpreting Charlie Brown’s drawings
and she says “you always have the people’s hands behind their back to
symbolize your shyness” and he says “no I just don’t know how to draw hands.” So
don’t go crazy with this stuff. It’s open to interpretation, and I will guide you — I
will give you hints as to what to look for especially in these first books, so that you can then focus on interpreting and not so much on finding. Alright, so this ends the official note-taking portion. Next are going to be a few images for you to take a look at. What I
want you to do is pause on them and jot down what you think they mean, so that tomorrow in class we can have a discussion about these symbols and what some of them
might represent. Per usual, come to me with any questions, answer the
online questions at the end of this, and come in tomorrow with all your notes. Relax, take a look at these and try to avoid overthinking it. Here’s your first set. right
here and here are two very classic ones same thing here . So, on the surface,
girl eating sparkly Apple, right? Medal with snake. Donkey and elephant, not happy
with each other… but there’s more to it than that. now here is a really clever one. This is
from two thousand and six, it’s in New Orleans. Focus on this word and then
start looking at all the details — you should be able to find about eight different things in this that are all symbolic, if you know american disaster
history. On this page all three of these images are sending a message. so what is the symbol here? what’s the message that the creator of these drawings was trying
to convey? And, lastly, companies even use symbolism. In each of these four logos on
here there is something symbolic. Can you spot what they are? Alright, that’ll do it for this presentation. Thank you for watching and taking notes and, per usual, if you have any
questions or any concerns come see me. This is a bit of a complex topic — don’t
worry about it if you are not great at it. it’ll take some time and that’s really
all right.

 

Leave a Reply