How can I analyze the use of symbols in "The Garden Party"? What is the way to analyze symbolism?
Analysing symbolism takes a little work and a little digging. First, the definition of a symbolic word, object, statement or concept is that it is one that stands for itself (e.g., a rose is a rose; a budding flower is a budding flower) and for something greater at the same time (e.g., a rose is love; a budding flower is a new and growing understanding or relationship ). With this is mind, notice anything (e.g., word, phrase, image, characteristic, scenes) that seems to have more meaning than others. For example, in a coming-of-age story, if the heroine lives at the top of hill, that may symbolically mean she is remote and isolated. If, on the other hand, she has to climb a steep hill to get to some important destination, that may symbolically mean that she is faced with a difficult and challenging situation to overcome.
Along with that, look for imagery words, like colors, shapes, sounds, smells, textures, etc.. and descriptions that may symbolically represent concepts that are important to the story's meaning, theme, motifs, character development, or plot development. For instance, in "The Garden Party" the colors and light and flowers and food at the Sheridan home stand in stark contrast to the darkness, gloom, flickering candle light of the cottages in the lane. This symbolically represents the very different lives the people therein live, one of sheltered luxury and the other of bleak survival and necessity. This is important to the theme of the story because it is in the bleak surroundings of survival, not the surroundings of pampered luxury and plenty, that Laura encounters immortal peace and happiness.
Also look for significant names of things. For example, in "The Garden Party" the flowers that are ordered and delivered in profuse abundance are not just "flowers," they are "lilies." Lilies are a classic symbol of death, therefore the lilies symbolically represent death that Laura will encounter. This points out another element of how to analyze symbolism in a work of literature. Be aware that some things have a tradition attached to them of a convention of symbolic meaning. For instance, something symbolically associated with a lion in a positive manner is being symbolically represented as mighty, kingly, powerful, majestic, like Aslan the Lion in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Red has a convention of being associated with anger or passionate love or of death, as is the case in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death."
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