11 October 2008

On Symbolism and Symbology

1039103_key I am busy reading all the other stories for this week’s Fiction Friday. I am always amazed how a handful of people can take the same prompt and run with it in such different directions. This week’s prompt involves a key, and, as I am reading the stories, I cannot help but remember a game we played when I was in school.

The object of the game, apparently, was a bit of psycho-analysis and, to play, you needed to write down some key words about items in a story. It is a little fuzzy, but I think the story went as follows:

You are walking through a forest – what does the forest look like? (is it dark/light, etc?)

While walking, you come across a bear. You path continues on the other side of the bear, how do you pass? (walk around, negotiate, climb over)

A stream crosses the path, what does it look like? (muddy, clear, small, wide, a river rather than stream)

Path ends at a house. The key to the door is hanging from a nail next to the door. What does the key look like? What does the house look like…

And I am sure the key, in this story, represented education and your perceptions on it. I cannot help but wonder if the key in this week’s Fiction Friday has the same representations for us.

We all use our own symbology based on our own experiences, but there are still certain symbols that are universal for all humans. Cultural anthropologist Victor Turner wrote a great deal on the topic, but writers exploit this shared symbology even more than we often realise, and we are often not scared to use pop culture symbology either. I find analysing the symbols and symbolism used by writers fascinating, especially once you start cross-referencing certain symbols used by writers from the same geographic location.

Can you think of any symbols, other than the key, used often by writers to emphasis a point or progress a plot?

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