Allegory

An allegory is a story told on two levels simultaneously, the narrative level and the symbolic level. At each point in the story on the narrative level, there is a corresponding point on the symbolic level. Fables and parables are two examples of allegories, and are often intended to teach a lesson by allowing the reader to extrapolate the figurative, as opposed to the literal, meaning of the story. One very well known allegory, Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", is just such an educational story.

Link to an animated interpretation of the Allegory of the Cave


Link to a text of the Allegory of the Cave

An allegory will often use many different figurative devices to convey meaning to an audience or reader. Some of these include metaphor, allusion, pun, hyperbole, oxymoron, and many others. An allegory need not be a long story, and sometimes poems or short prose can be written allegorically, as in this example below:

A sculptor begins
with a slab of granite
and hopes to find
the essence within
that means to be found.

A sculptor seeks perfection,
to make in stone
soul-transfigured
and soul-transfiguring
the human form divine.

But if a sculptor polishes
the same stone
for long enough
then it becomes
nothing.

What do you think the meaning of this allegory might be? If you're interested, another example in the form of a short story I wrote some time ago can be found at this link. If you decide to write an allegory of your own, leave me a comment so I can check it out. You'll probably find this mode of expression is quite natural to you... someone once told me that allegories and metaphor are at the root of our knowing and storying the world.

7 comments

Mariana Soffer said...

Hi man, it seems like we are coordinated, we talk about the same things at the same time.
Regarding metaphors these people said:

* Metaphors are markers of the roots of thought itself. They are the main mechanisms through which we comprehend abstract concepts and perform abstract reasoning. Abstract thought would be meaningless without bodily experience. People think with their brains and their brains are part of their bodies as well. - Lakoff and Johnson

* I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language. The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath - not always on demand, and not infallibly, but often enough and insightfully enough to shape the human condition. Our powers of analogy allow us to apply ancient neural structures to newfound subject matter, to discover hidden laws and systems in nature, and not least, to amplify the expressive power of language itself. - Steven Pinker

and for more check:http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2009/10/metaphor-and-mind_04.html

Take care man and be well, your blog it turning really good I think, I like it a lot.
M

October 6, 2009 at 12:57 AM
Jon said...

Hi Mariana,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts... I like both of these quotes and especially the last line from Pinker... that seems to go so well with this site's theme... as usual, seems like there's a quantum entanglement between what we're thinking about

:)

Thanks!

October 8, 2009 at 12:12 AM
Harlequin said...

so nice to see resonances among expressive people.... lovely and inspirational;
I am excited to try one of these now ... torn between the what and how...
will process for a bit

thanks!

October 8, 2009 at 10:22 PM
SarahA said...

I am thinking,this way of writing is good brain food.But then I believe everyone takes/reads things differently, whatever.According to their own life's experiences.
'someone once told me that allegories and metaphor are at the root of our knowing and storying the world'
Yes I believe so too.

October 14, 2009 at 2:39 AM
Jon said...

Harle,
Love the allegory you've put up on your site... such an interesting way to intertwine dance and story... rhythmical words too!

Sarah,
It is all about individual experience, eh? Thanks for stopping by this blog and for your thoughtful comments, as always.

October 15, 2009 at 9:56 PM
Harlequin said...

JON-- an intriguing new site investigating phenomenology and embodiment and expression that you might want to check out:
embodyingpedagogy.blogspot.com

October 21, 2009 at 12:09 AM
Jon said...

Harle,

thanks for the link... a very cool site! and a great url as well... sure that one is going to stick...

October 21, 2009 at 1:40 AM