Friday, July 10, 2009

Allegories in our Around

Having one notion of what we are reading does not specify what authors really want to say. For instance, in literature actually, there are many books which have more meanings behind than what is shown or we read. But, why do authors have the necessity to write books with connotations behind? Those connotations are called Allegories. We’ll see why Allegories exist in Literature.
Allegory is presented in many ways of expressions, such as images, books, plays, songs, and so on. According to ‘Oxford Dictionary’, an allegory is, “A representation of and abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another”. Therefore, an allegory represents senses behind what people interpret in a first sight. Referring to this definition the Dictionary of the English Language points out, “an allegory is the representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form”.
The purposes of allegories depend on what the author wants to say. For instance, if one author wants to write a story about a romance between a couple, and he belongs to an ideology; and he wants to express his ideas through this story. Perfectly, this author could give his ideological meanings behind this story about a romance between a couple. The intention of allegories are to wake up the curiosity on readers to interpret Authors’ real stories beyond.
One a very good example of allegory in literature, book in this case, is The Letter of Sir Raleigh. Here Spenser explained the connotations that are in his book The Fairy Queen.
Referring to this issue, I have pointed out before, “in this letter Spencer tried to send messages through this book. He always emphasized some of the 12 values, such as: holiness, temperance, and chastity that could be the meaning of the knight of “Red Crosse” (England flag as symbol of power), Sir Guyon... “The Forth” (sir: English nobility; forth: until the end, forward, etc. – England needed to find more territories and more modern development, or they already had them, in that time)” and the lady knight (“Elizabeth I?” who was the most of her time alone), respectively. This must be one of his allegories.
Other example could be The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, from the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy that states, “the character named Christian struggles to escape from a bog or swamp. The story of this difficulty is a symbol of the difficulty of leading a good life in the “bog” of this world. The “bog” is a metaphor or symbol of life’s hardships and distractions. Similarly, when Christian loses a heavy pack that has been carrying on his back, this symbolizes his freedom from the weight of sin that he has been carrying”. Understanding this process to be aware if we are in front of an allegory needs practice. And the best way in practicing is reading and interpreting the meanings beyond of what we see or read. For instance, at schools it must be taught by teachers. Students should know about interpretation to become more critical and reflective.
Teaching allegories at school have huge benefits to our students. First of all, teachers must teach them how they can interpret what kind of expression is in front of them; because nowadays students are less able to interpret ‘expressions’ due to no teachers and no one teaches it to them. Although, interpreting meanings is very ambiguous as a result each of us has different ways of interpreting stories, as one example. Teachers should encourage students to read books, novels, stories, etc. and also encourage them to interpret those books. This is the beginning of the whole benefits that allegories can give our students at schools. Even though, books and novels are not the only sort of expression that we can interpret, they are many, such as images, songs, plays, body language, etc.
One the other hand, if students can interpret an image made for an author in a good way; learners shall be capable to understand our society in terms of why we are like we are. They are more proficient to be converted into critical thinkers. According to this Nora McQuaid claims, “All subjects in education should explore the influence of images (whether they are in textbooks, new reports, travel brochures, or Aid agency appeals) and the ways in which they can never be neutral but always reflect the intention of those using them. It is important for students to be made aware of the representations of images which are used by educators in all disciplines.” (20)
Allegories are not always in books. They could be in every sense of expression, and if teachers teach and encourage how we can interpret them, our students will be more curious on our around. Thus, we are going to have reflective students. As Nora McQuaid states, “educators can promote the debate with students that any reading or watching of documentaries or news or listening to debates only provides us with images and/or words which are representations of those places, people or events arrange and constructed by the authors, the documentary makers or the TV news channel.” (20)
Agreeing with her point of view, students can understand the meanings that arrive in our minds as a result of what our society system wants for us. So they could comprehend all or part of our injustice and inequality of life in this society. All of us are able to read allegories, the only thing we need is the curiosity.
In conclusion, as an Allegory means hidden messages among an ‘expression’ which could have a moral, but the main intention is to awake the reader’s curiosity and thoughts about the story to analyze its meanings, as The Letter of Sir Raleigh by Spencer and The Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan have shown . Therefore, Allegories are useful to be aware and reflective in our society. If we can realize about our real external world, we could help our society in what we really needs. As teachers, we must encourage students to see allegories that are around us, to become critical thinkers, and to change our society to turn into more equal for all.


“Allegory.” Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.The American Heritage.
Published Houghton Mifflin Company. 2009 <>

Mc Quaid, Nora. “Learning to ‘un-divide’ the World: The Legacy of Colonialism and
Education in the 21st Century.” Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices. 3:1 2009.

T.F. Hoad. “Allegory.” The Consise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. 7 Jul. 2009 < >

“The Pilgrim’s Progress.” New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. The
American Heritage. Published Houghton Mifflin Company. 2005 < >

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