Writing assignments are inseparable from your college homework. They are meant to help you learn how to express your thoughts clearer, work with diverse literary pieces, analyze linguistic tools, and use your creativity to the fullest.

However, written tasks oftentimes require a certain set of skills. They also involve a specific structure and other details and rules you should follow in order to get great results in your writing.

What Is a Symbolism Essay?

Before starting to write, you need to figure out what this type of essay really is. This will give you the general idea of what you should actually talk about in your paper.

Symbolism is a common linguistic tool in numerous literary works. It is a way to link a certain object, character, or situation with an idea. The general purpose of a symbolism essay is for you to express and present your position and thoughts on a certain symbol (or a couple of them) implied by the author in a specific piece of literature. The goal of any symbolism essay is to find and analyze the main symbols in the literary work, but you have to be careful with filtering through the information and not adding unnecessary details to your paper. Keep in mind that you will need to support your statements with proper examples.

Different Types of Symbols

Learning to distinguish different types of symbolism will help you find proper symbol examples in the works of literature and analyze them with a deeper understanding of this linguistic tool.

Contextual Symbols

One of the most prevalent types is a contextual symbol. It is the idea that functions specifically within the text. For instance, the whale in “Moby Dick” by H. Melville is the contextual symbol since it exists only inside the confines of the narration. When analyzing this type, keep in mind that it oftentimes develops or exposes its role throughout the text (especially if it’s a longer piece of literature). Also, to support your argument, you should use quotes and proof directly from the narration since it’s the only place where the contextual symbol functions.

Universal Symbols

A universal symbol is the one that exists in the context of a certain culture or, let’s say, ideology and can be recognized rather easily. For instance, in numerous cultures, an owl symbolizes wisdom, and a journey symbolizes life. When analyzing a universal symbol, make sure you reference only reliable sources (like scholarly works, for example).

Archetypal Symbols

Archetypal symbols usually represent an ideal or original type of someone or something. This type of symbolism is spread throughout time and cultures and oftentimes involves embodying a universal, typical meaning of a concept or experience, which is commonly known and can be easily recognized no matter what culture it belongs to. For instance, the Hero is the archetypal symbol of courage and strength. When analyzing this type of symbolism, you can include references and examples from outside the literary piece you are working with.

Writing Tips on a Symbolism Essay

The writing process can be a real challenge sometimes. There are moments when we lack concentration or simply inspiration. However, when you have a list of steps you should follow when dealing with a symbolism essay, you can get the work done without struggling.

To start off, learn what a symbol is (which you’ve already done). Having a general understanding of what you are going to analyze and discuss will help you proceed with your task with more confidence.

Before starting to write, you should consider the following questions, which will help you plan your essay:

  • Are there any symbols in the names, places, actions, objects, and situations described in the literary work?
  • What types of symbols are those?
  • What do those symbols represent?
  • How direct and defined is the symbolism?
  • How often is it used?
  • How does the symbolism supplement the work? Does it strengthen the narration?
  • Why, in your opinion, did the author include these specific symbols in his or her work?

You don’t necessarily have to discuss all of these points in your essay. However, answering these questions for yourself will allow you to have a deeper understanding of the story in general. This will also help you establish the general picture of your work, a certain plan you are going to stick to.

Brainstorm and take notes. Write down all the ideas that come to your mind, keep track of the characters and events, and draw out an approximate scheme you are going to follow in your writing. This will help you come up with some new ideas for your paper and follow up with all the symbols and narration details you want to mention in your work.

Essay Structure

Don’t forget that each essay should be written according to a certain structure. Start with the introduction, which usually serves as a hook to grab the reader’s attention. Here, you should also present your thesis statement, which is meant to reveal the major idea and the main symbols you are going to be presenting in your work.

When proceeding to the body of your paper, start with the meaning of the major symbol. Here you should identify the symbol once again and explain what it represents. You can define the type of symbolism, state how it affects your personal understanding of the narrative, and explain whether it adds depth to the literary work. This is the part of your essay where you can (and should) add quotes and examples in order to support your opinions.

In the conclusive section, you should briefly summarize the major points of your work. You might want to explain the impact of the symbol on the readers and the given literary piece, or simply end with describing your personal impressions and thoughts on the matter.

Another helpful tip is linked with research, which is oftentimes considered to be the most boring part of the assignment but can help you a lot when working on your symbolism paper. Research the symbols you find in the literary work and see what they are associated with and how they were presented in different pieces throughout history. This will give you a deeper understanding of the matter. Plus, you might stumble upon some interesting discussion points or simply get inspired to go on with your writing task.

Don’t forget that your essay should be easy to read. Don’t overflow it with complicated expressions and abstruse phrases. However, the language you use should sound appropriate, so it’s always better to avoid colloquialisms.

And always proofread and check your final work. This step is obvious, but numerous students omit it due to the lack of time or mere forgetfulness. Don’t be like the rest of them.

Symbolism Essay Examples

Countless literary pieces are filled with symbols and allegories. This gives a lot of creative opportunities for students in their essay writing. Let’s consider the most masterful symbolism examples for your essay.

In “The Great Gatsby,” the author (F. Scott Fitzgerald) skillfully implemented symbolism in a very simple yet poetic form. The green light at Daisy’s dock, at which Jay Gatsby can’t stop staring, is a symbol of the bright future the character dreams about. He wants to get closer to the woman he loves and hopes to be back together with her one day, looking at her green light as if he was looking into their bright, hoped-for future.

Another example, which you can use for your symbolism essay, lies in the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. The One Ring is the symbol, the representation of power, greed, and even selfishness. It is the central symbol of the narration, which not only lets the plot evolve around it but also delivers a certain message to the reader.

Whichever literary piece you get to analyze, chances are you are going to discover numerous examples of symbolism. Make sure you stick to a proper structure and don’t be afraid to use your creativity, and you will certainly end up writing an excellent essay.

  1. The Functions of Symbolism in Literature
  2. Symbolism in Blake’s Poetry
  3. The Use of Symbolism Within Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
  4. Orwell’s Use of Symbolism in “1984”
  5. Symbolism in A Doll’s House
  6. Symbolism and Characterization in “Everyday Use”
  7. The Hunger Games Symbolism
  8. Symbolism and “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison
  9. Symbolism in The Jade Peony
  10. Symbolism in “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara