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One of the best examples of symbolism in Hardy's Tess of the d'Ubervilles is right at the beginning of the novel. All of the women, both old and young, are parading through the village in white dress while holding white flowers. It's the May Day Festival and it's probably one of the only holidays where everyone is viewed (visibly anyway) as equals. The festival encompasses all of England and is celebrated as one. Tess, of course, is also wearing the color that symbolizes purity and virtue. Although she starts the novel out as an innocent in society, Fate and poor decisions will slowly lead her down a dark path--even to the depths of murder, which is black and completely opposite from her beginnings. Symbolism is a device used by authors to show a story rather than to tell it. Letters, flowers, colors, personal items, national items (i.e., flags, bells) all help to paint a picture for the reader. It is more fun to read a book and to decipher the symbolic codes and other figures of speech rather than to have the author explicitly reveal everything at once. Suspense, mood, and other plot elements are satisfied as an author uses a literary device correctly.
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