Symbolism, Symbolism, SYMBOLISM!!

In short, symbolism is the author’s use of something to represent something else. For example, when you see 🙂 you think of happiness or laughter right? Why? It’s just a symbol. But your brain has been taught to associate 🙂 with different concepts. Symbolism in literature is like that, except you have to figure out what the author your teacher wants you to associate with the symbol.

This, my friend, is the crown jewel of AP English Lit. The king of kings, wonder of wonders, key to doing practically anything in your essays – symbolism. Symbolism is The Way. Life. The Universe. Everything. 42. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Hitchhiker’s reference). It is with symbolism that mountains become death, death becomes flowers, flowers become Armageddon, Armageddon becomes…you get the picture. With an adequate Fact, symbolism will get you ANYWHERE.

Using symbolism well in an essay asking for literary devices shows your ability to think creatively and will more than likely provide for some extra points.

If you want a detailed explanation of symbols for your specific book you can always Google it. But make sure to make the work your own. Plagiarism is the evil overlord of AP Lit. It will strike at any time, in any way, and result in a critical hit to your grade points. Just trust me. Take the Act and Fact, but make the Abstract your own. For example: take Fact “yellow = corruption” and Act “the multiple instances of yellow at Gatsby’s party” but take the Abstract in your own direction. You can use Google to direct where the F/Act takes you, but the wording and the Abstract/Tying it Back must be your own.

Before I get into a collection of the FUSE (Frequently Used Symbols of Eternity, also way to blow your paper up to the next level), a warning. Beware – there is a difference between a symbol and a motif! A symbol is very specific (red means love) whereas a motif is pretty general (color refers to emotions). Do not get these mixed up! (In the FUSE, symbols are what you get when you click on “Show All” and motifs are the categories.)

Disclaimers: Just because I say a symbol means something doesn’t mean it always means that in your book. At first. You can work in any meaning to a symbol to your paper with enough effort. Also, certain books could create specific meanings for symbols (like a character’s memory of a book means any reference to that book is the memory). Additionally, the FUSE is my quick guide to standard symbols. However, if you can think of an adequate Fact, you do NOT have to stick to these interpretations.

FUSE (Frequently Used Symbols of Eternity)



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One comment on “Symbolism, Symbolism, SYMBOLISM!!
  1. Gayle says:

    Love this website!

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Summer reading, while annoying and generally the bane of all students-enjoying-their-well-deserved-vacation’s existence, is still important. Not because the book will change your life, but because the first couple weeks of school (not counting the arbitrary getting-to-know-you first day) center around it. Make sure you know what your summer reading is, read it, and remember enough of it to get by.