Symbolism is the practice or art of using an object or a word to represent an abstract idea. An action, person, place, word, or object can all have a symbolic meaning. When an author wants to suggest a certain mood or emotion, he can also use symbolism to hint at it, rather than just blatantly saying it.
Symbolism is often used by writers to enhance their writing. Symbolism can give a literary work more richness and color and can make the meaning of the work deeper.
In literature, symbolism can take many forms including:
A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses symbolism.
Examples of symbolism that take the form of metaphors include:
Sometimes symbolism takes the form of a literary tool called an allegory. Allegory is an extended use of symbolism and metaphors. A story, a poem, or even a whole book can be an allegory and the symbolism will permeate throughout.
One example of an allegory is the monologue from Shakespeare in "As You Like It."
"All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players;they have their exits and their entrances;And one man in his time plays many parts,"
This is symbolic of the fact that people are putting on a show and that they play many roles over the course of their lives.
Many poets used symbolism to deepen the meaning of their poems. Here is an excerpt from William Blake's "Ah Sunflower." In it, Blake refers to life cycle and uses sunflowers to represent humankind and that they desire everlasting life.
"Ah Sunflower, weary of time, Who countest the steps of the sun; Seeking after that sweet golden clime Where the traveler's journey is done;"
Our language contains an immense number of symbols whose intended meaning or significance is well-known and accepted by the majority. Of course, many of these do wind up in books, magazines, stories, and other written works.
Symbolism is found in colors:
Objects are often used to symbolize something else:
Even flowers can have a symbolism:
Symbolism, as you see, can be found almost anywhere. Any time there is something that represents more than its literal meaning, this can be an example of symbolism.