What makes any literary work even more interesting, captivating, and attention-grabbing? While some authors may consider the metaphors to be the secret behind their masterpieces, others regard imagery as the underlying crux of their artwork. But literary intellectuals make use of allegory to keep the readers hooked on to their magnum opuses and induce them to explore the external factors that provide significant and genuine meaning to the story. The term allegory is derived from the Greek word ‘allos’ which means ‘to speak’. It is a device and a form of rhetoric which narrates the story in an imaginative style rather than the plain writing, thereby offering a symbolic meaning and bringing forward the underlying message other than the simple narrative details. To put it in simple words, allegory is nothing but equating objects, actions, or persons with meanings that are not present in the real text. Allegory examples fall under two main categories - abstract themes and political or historical allegory. All works that contain allegory examples are segregated into classical era, medieval era, and modern era. A read through of the following text will provide you with some popular examples of this literary technique and take you a step closer in knowing this figure of speech.
- The Old Testament’s creation story is an idealistic example of allegory. This foundation story depicting Adam as man, Eve as woman, the apple as human temptation and weakness, and serpent as evil has been in existence since the beginning of mankind. Though the literal truth of this creation story is argued and debated by many, an enthusiastic reader may relate the same story as a demonstration of allegory.
- “A Rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner makes another very famous example of allegory. By illustrating the town’s search for Homer whose being missing for quite a while, the poet tries to emphasize the attitudes of the Old South. Here in the poem, Emily represents the town and the townspeople symbolize the Old South. The story that ends with Emily sleeping with Homer’s corpse, points out the relation of the people with the Old South, which actually has turned dead and disappeared.
- The Republic by Plato is one of the most quoted examples of allegory, even though it is a philosophical work. The interesting and intellectual section of the Allegory of the Cave is an apt and beautiful presentation of the differences in human nature and societal ethics. The ideology of man accepting the conventions and refusing to question them or dig beneath the surface to uncover various ways of thinking and living is conveyed through a group of prisoners trapped in a cave.
- Loved the Aesop’s Fables? Remember The Boy Who Cried Wolf? The story of a boy who made two attempts of fooling his neighbors that a wolf had threatened to kill his flock of sheep, got to learn his lesson after they disagreed to come to his help when danger actually arrived. All his efforts were rendered futile when wolf actually came and attacked his cattle, as the people chose to keep out. The allegory reveals the dangers of encompassing lies on day-to-day speech.
- One of the most popular citations of allegory in literature is the incomplete epic poem “The Faerie Queen” by Edmund Spenser. Sketched completely in praise of Queen Elizabeth I, this poem emphasized on the qualities of friendship, truth, and justice in comparison to other innate objects, both beautifully and allegorically.
- The idea of human nature and the need to put oneself ahead of others could not be represented better than the classic tale of “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. The novel describes the story of a group of boys stuck on a deserted island, represented allegorically through depictions of a rational mind, democracy, order and civility, and various other such abstract terms.
- George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” epitomizes allegory to its potential best. The farm is assumed as an explicit model for deriving a more abstract, implicit target, thereby highlighting the global topic of totalitarian politics. The animals in the farm are a representation of the communist regime of Stalin in Russia prior to the World War II.
These are some literary masterworks that provide an insight on the use of allegory in writings. By endowing a dramatic effect to the literary plot, simple and plain stories can be transformed into classic masterpieces.