How do the Signifying Monkey tales present the relationship between the literal and the figurative?
According to Gates, the literal is undercut by the figurative in The Signifying Monkey. The oral tradition defies the logicality of criticisms applied to it that seek figurative of literal meaning through analysis, while the tradition of the oral tale delivers the figurative meaning, which has a difference from that found through literal critical analysis.
the vernacular tradition, however, undercuts this penchant [to valorize the literal] at its deepest level, that of underlying rhetorical principle. The myths of origins of the the tradition privilege both the figurative and the ambiguous. (Gates, The Signifying Monkey)