I am having a little trouble with the concept of allegory. I am trying to apply it to Mann´s "Tobias Mindernickel".
So far I have gotten on to the concept that people end up treating others as they are treated themselves.
And in symbolism in the same story, how the cane is a symbol of a handicapped self-esteem and the once expensive and fashionable clothes, now in rags, also a symbol of a once proud and dignified man turned into a babbling coward for some unexplained reason.
Am I on the right track?
Thanks so much!
1 Answer | Add Yours
Without having read this piece (and I cannot find it online) I can only discuss the concept of allegory and symbolism in general. It sounds to me as if you are on the right track.
An allegory is a story that has a meaning (symbolic, figurative) other than that which is presented by the characters and the plot development. My sense of an allegory is that it teaches some kind of a life-lesson (an "idea, principle or meaning"). Allegory is explained here in terms of its purpose as a literary device:
As a literary device, an allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor.
The allegory, as I mentioned, has a message for the reader. This message is delivered by way of symbolism:
...symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation
In terms of symbolism, it is:
...used to provide meaning to the writing beyond what is actually being described.
Beyond the simple definition of the word is advice as to how one can find a symbol to begin with, which then needs to be defined singularly, and then applied to the story or piece of literature to interpret the "hidden" message that is being shared with the reader. The reader should look for the repetitious presentation of an item within the story. One way to identify symbols is with...
...the frequency an object or character...mentioned...if it is mentioned often, it is probably important.
For example, the repetition in a story to keys and/or locks might symbolize hidden information, perhaps secrets, that need to be revealed. Remember, too, that colors, animals and plants can also be symbolic. (Red is symbolic of passion, and roses are symbolic of love, etc.)
Based upon what you have provided, the following sounds like a theme, and a solid observation, at that:
...people end up treating others as they are treated themselves.
The symbols of the cane, and the ragged clothing sound perfect. What else but a cane would be used to indicate a handicap? And the details of "once expensive and fashionable clothes, now in rags" would provide a metaphor for something that was once exceptional, but is broken-down or damaged, etc.
As I see it, your work shows an understanding of the concepts of allegories and symbolism; your examples make perfect sense. You seem to have a strong grasp of the material and related concepts.
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