A symbol tends to be something concrete that represents or stands for an abstract idea or concept, but a motif's meaning typically comes from the different ways and situations in which it recurs.
For example, in , one important symbol is the green light on Daisy's dock, which is a concrete object that also represents the abstract concepts of yearning and the American Dream.
For example, one theme in The Great Gatsby is "morality and ethics." But we can't know what the novel wants us to think about morality or ethics until we notice that the only symbolic representation of a higher moral power in the book is the inanimate billboard of Doctor T. At its core, a symbol is a literary device that enhances fiction by building richness and adding color, depth, and realism.
Rather than having the author have to explain everything in a heavy-handed way, symbols allow readers to discover connections between characters, bits of plot, and different settings on their own.
So feel free to interpret these universally meaningful symbols in any work you come across!
Here are some examples: Most of your assignments will ask you to analyze a symbol and explore its significance in the novel. There are two different types of essay you can build.
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We teach you all the literary devices you must know, the literary elements that appear in every story and first/second/third person POV here.
If you're analyzing poetry (or Shakespeare), you'll also want to check out our articles on iambic pentameter and assonance.