English Literature » Allegory

Allegory

Brief definition of Allegory

Allegory is a literary device that describes any writing whether in verse or prose that has a double meaning- surface ans symbolic. And the symbolic meaning is usually far-fetched and greater than the surface, literal meaning.

Definition of Allegory

An allegory is a work of art, such as a story or painting, in which the characters, images, and/or events act as symbols. The symbolism in an allegory can be interpreted to have a deeper meaning. An author may use allegory to illustrate a moral or spiritual truth, or political or historical situation.

Allegories can be understood to be a type of extended metaphor. An extended metaphor develops a certain analogy to a greater extent than a simple comparison. An allegory, meanwhile, uses a particular metaphor throughout an entire plot.

The word “allegory” comes from the ancient Greek for “to speak so as to imply something other.” The definition of allegory makes sense coming from this term, as an allegory always has some hidden meaning below the surface.

Difference Between Allegory and Symbolism

Although an allegory uses symbols, it is different from symbolism. An allegory is a complete narrative that involves characters and events that stand for an abstract idea or event. A symbol, on the other hand, is an object that stands for another object, giving it a particular meaning. Unlike allegory, symbolism does not tell a story. For example, Plato, in his Allegory of Cave, tells a story of how some people are ignorant, while at the same time other people “see the light.” Plato’s allegory stands for an idea and does not tell an actual story.

Examples of Allegory in Literature

Faerie Queen, a masterpiece of Edmund Spenser, is a moral and religious allegory.

The good characters of book stand for the various virtues, while the bad characters represent vices. “The Red-Cross Knight” represents holiness, and “Lady Una” represents truth, wisdom, and goodness. Her parents symbolize the human race. The “Dragon,” which has imprisoned them, stands for evil.

The mission of holiness is to help the truth fight evil, and thus regain its rightful place in the hearts of human beings. “The Red-Cross Knight” in this poem also represents the reformed church of England, fighting against the “Dragon,” which stands for the Papacy or the Catholic Church.

Animal Farm, written by George Orwell, is an allegory that uses animals on a farm to describe the overthrow of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and the Communist Revolution of Russia before WW I. The actions of the animals on the farm are used to expose the greed and corruption of the revolution. It also describes how powerful people can change the ideology of a society. One of the cardinal rules on the farm is this:

“All animals are equal but a few are more equal than others.”

The animals on the farm represent different sections of Russian society after the revolution.

For instance, the pigs represent those who came to power following the revolution; “Mr. Jones,” the owner of the farm, represents the overthrown Tsar Nicholas II; while “Boxer” the horse, represents the laborer class. The use of allegory in the novel allows Orwell to make his position clear about the Russian Revolution and expose its evils.

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an example of spiritual allegory. The ordinary sinner, Christian, leaves the City of Destruction, and travels towards Celestial City, where God resides, for salvation. He finds Faithful, a companion who helps him on his way to the City. On many instances, many characters, including Hypocrisy, Apollyon, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Obstinate, and Pliable try to discourage or stop him from achieving his aim. Finally, he reaches the Celestial City, carried by Hopeful’s faith.

The moral learned through this allegory is that the road to Heaven is not easy, and it is full of obstacles. A Christian has to be willing to pay any price to achieve salvation. A man is full of sins, but this does not stop him from achieving glory.