Allegory is a versatile term, and its definition depends on the field of life it’s being used in. In its broadest sense, allegory means symbolic comparison and representation. As a linguistic device, it implies depicting a hidden, spiritual, deep meaning by presenting the material forms. It’s an excellent way to show the truth by using fictional actions and symbolic figures.
The term originates from the Greek word “allēgoría,” which derives from “allēgoreîn.” It’s a combination of two words: “agoreuein” meaning “to speak” and “allos” meaning “different.” The term can be translated as “to speak and imply something different.” The term took its roots in 1350-1400 and was used by early scholars and writers, for example, Cicero and Plato.
Not only a literary tool may be called allegory but an actual piece of literature (or artwork) as well. Usually, plays, short stories, poems, and even paintings can be called allegories when their scenarios stand for certain ideas and involve a profound meaning.
A common mistake people make is confusing an allegory with a parable. While both these literary works always deliver a certain message, they do it differently. Allegories bring symbolism into play to depict a certain idea or lesson. However, parables don’t actually need symbols as they present the message by distinctly illustrating it.
Such literary tools as a metaphor, personification, etc. are often used to implement allegory, which is why they also are often confused with this term. It’s important to remember that these devices aren’t allegories by themselves, they are needed just to present the message that the allegory implies.
Another related term is symbolism. It is widely used to support allegories, but these two linguistic tools are different and don’t fall under the same definition. Allegory is a broader, narrative technique, whereas symbolism can be described as an allegorical appliance.
Allegory as a linguistic device is a very useful tool, which allows the reader to comprehend a complex message concealed within a story that is easy to read. It’s an expressive tool that helps people understand not only the literary piece they’re reading but also the world that surrounds them. Allegory is a very versatile technique. It can be applied to present any side of life, any problem, and any challenge the society faces.
Allegory is probably one of the most popular literary techniques in children’s stories. In order to teach a lesson and present a complex concept or idea, writers incorporate allegory into children’s books. It’s an effective way to explain the complicated issues of the adult world they’re living in. By hiding the truth under symbolism, writers allow children to comprehend difficult phenomena without the need for the detailed explanation. Even if they don’t understand all of the symbols, they still receive a certain message and learn a lesson.
This linguistic tool is not only effective but also very old. During the old times, it helped people explain the things they didn’t understand and couldn’t express. There’s a theory, which states that religious tales and myths actually hide the universal secrets, which people aren’t able to comprehend in their pure state, so they need allegoric signs to understand them.
Allegories don’t always have an enlightening undertone, but they always have a specific message to deliver. They can be used to express the author’s feelings and opinions on the world or a certain circumstance, to explain a complicated event or a moral concept, or to add a deeper meaning to a literary piece.
Literature is rich in examples of allegorical works. The most known (and probably the most scandalous) one is the “Animal Farm.” This literary piece combines political simile, social symbolism, and artistic implementation in order to depict the Russian Revolution.
W. Golding also used allegory in his work “The Lord of the Flies.” He speaks about religion, society, morality, law, and many other important aspects of life without actually naming them. This allows the readers to make their own conclusions, to think deeper, and to form opinions without being told what to think by the author.
“The Pearl,” a novella by J. Steinbeck, is another illustration of the allegory usage. The author delivers a message and depicts the dominion of money, the influence it has on human nature, and the consequences of greed.