Symbols in Stories
I remember studying symbolism when I took American Literature in college and in my high school English class. I thought it was a lot of bunk. Why would an author stick in a bunch of symbols instead of just coming right out and saying whatever it was they wanted to say? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I changed my opinion when I realized that I have been inserting symbols in just about everything I write. It’s not intentional in most of my work. It just happens. It’s like that underlying thought or feeling I didn’t intend to express but then I find I symbolized it just the way we do in our dreams.
Here are some examples:
In my 1927 time travel, The Violin, I wrote about John’s younger brother’s inability to let go of the hawk whose broken wing he repaired. He struggles with setting the hawk free until the very end. Of course, it wasn’t really just a hawk. The hawk signifies freedom and releasing control. When it gets right down to it, letting go and going with the flow aren’t as easy as we wish they were. We want to hang on to what we know because the unknown is just too scary.
The Violin has just been re-launched by for Fire Star Press and is available in print and all e-book formats.
Red Tailed Hawk
In another time travel, Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride, I used a harmonica as a symbol. Joe keeps his deceased brother’s harmonica even though he can’t play it. The harmonica implies his love for his brother, his guilt that he died and that Joe blames himself. By the way, that harmonica shows up in the sequel, Banjo’s story, in another symbolic way.
I intended the piano as a symbol in Cast Away Heart. A bitter man puts his former wife’s baby grand piano out in the yard and derives pleasure in watching it succumb to the elements until it rots and ends up in the trash. Ella wants to save the piano and says she can’t understand that kind of bitterness but she, too, hangs on to the bitterness of her past and that bitterness is about to destroy her future happiness. So the piano represents how bitterness can only lead to destruction of spirit.
Baby Grand Piano
In other stories, I have used a Rubik’s cube, an amber coffin, a ghost and even wings as symbols. I didn’t intend them as symbol’s, but just like those confounding objects in my dreams, they do represent underlying emotions. Symbols take on a life of their own. Most of us know the symbols for religions: a cross, a Star of David, and so on. We know by the symbol what the underlying theology is
What would Superman be without the big S in a triangle as his symbol? Whenever we see that symbol, we know that help is on the way.
Did you see any symbols in the last book you read?
Did you write a symbol into one of your books?
Did you intend to write in the symbol or is it a Freudian slip?
Sarah J. McNeal
Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of time travel, paranormal, western, contemporary and historical fiction.