By: Taniya Kalathara

What is it?

  • May be roughly defined as something that means more than what it is
  • It is something concrete that represents or stands for something else, usually an intangible concept or idea
  • When we recognize a symbol and understand its meaning or meanings we see more clearly what the writer chose to emphasize


Types of Symbols

  • A conventional symbol is a symbol that has an understood or widely accepted interpretation. The heart, for example, is a conventional symbol of love.
  • An archetypal symbol is one that supposedly conveys the same meaning in all cultures from the time of earliest civilization. The circle, for example, is an ancient symbol of wholeness or perfection.
  • A literary symbol is a symbol that has a possibility of multiple interpretations. For example, water could be used in the same story as both a redemptive and destructive force.
  • A phallic symbol suggests the potency of the male or the force of male dominance in a patriarchal society. A cigar, for example, is typically associated with the male gender.
  • A yonic symbol is a sexualized representation of the female gender. Pots, for example, are a common yonic symbol.
Symbolism in Literature

Your Turn!

Pick a novel and share out one symbol found within it

Works Cited