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What is an Allegory? Revealing All Three Meanings of This Word

Date Published: | Author: Mag Jehnsen | 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars3 votes - 73.33% Click a star to vote

Because there are three different definitions of the allegory, many students fail to get it right. While writing essays for your English composition and literature classes, you should keep in mind only the third definition of this word. With its help, you can enrich your paper and prove that you’re an expert in literary analysis.

An Attempt to define Allegory #1

  1. According to some official dictionary definitions, an allegory is a story/poem or even amigo which can be explained to show the secret meaning, usually a moral or political context. You may meet this version of the word in your art class.
  2. In other dictionaries, one may discover that the word “allegory” refers to a story in which the heroes and events are the signs of opinions towards our life. It may also refer to the political or historical events.
  3. An allegory is “a symbolic representation of something.”

We need neither of those definitions. They are all wrong when your literature teacher asks you to use allegory in your writing. Below, you will find the right interpretation.

Allegory Definition

An allegory is a literary device. It is used to explain how the characters or events in any type of art symbolize ideas and concepts.

To make you understand it better, let’s consider two words: “literally” and “allegorically.” If you read a piece literally, you do not try to search for the hidden messages or signs. While reading Orwell’s “Animal Farm” literally, you perceive everything the way it appears directly. You take animals and their actions as animals. If you try to take the text allegorically, it is all different and trickier. If you take a closer look at this novel, you’ll reveal the hidden meaning of both the animals and events described in the story. They have political and historical context. The pets living on farm turn into the power-hungry communists fighting to be the leading group. They oppress their fellows just like the post-Soviet leaders used to do to handle their people without mittens. The farm represents the entire country. That is what an allegory is about!

Allegory of the Cave

To understand the concept of allegory better, you may dig deeper into studying Plato’s “The Allegory of the cave.” The great philosopher understands that the overall run of humankind can think, talk, etc., without an awareness of his realm of Forms. What is the story about? Then philosopher likens human beings untortured in the theory of Forms to people imprisoned in a cave. They cannot even move or shake their heads. They can only see a cave’s wall. The puppeteers behind them have puppets that leave shadows on the walls. The imprisoned creatures cannot see the puppets but only their shadows. They can also hear only echoes.

Allegory Examples

Now you can see that all of the offered definitions of allegory are true. It all depends on a situation. You may use it as a brief literary device or entire story to illustrate things in an original way.

This word can stand for the long book or even series of books. In your academic essay, it is better to narrow it down to maximum one paragraph. An allegory could be something like Aesop’s Fables.

If we consider the entire story, an allegory should be considered as a representation of some thought or event in the past. Never read parables literally – otherwise, you won’t get the true meaning of the story.

Here are more allegories to keep in mind:

  • S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” is nothing else but an allegorical poem about war.
  • The entire “Hunger Games” series can be viewed and interpreted as a political allegory. The Capitol looks like Hollywood, and the obsession with TV shows is undeniable.
  • As for “Harry Potter,” it reminds of the main Christian events (the fight between good and evil, Harry and Voldemort).

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