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Term Definition

An allegory is a poetic device through which a series of concrete images are connected in such a way that they elucidate a relatively more abstract set of philosophical, political, or aesthetic meanings. For example, Plato's Allegory of the Cave is not "about" literal prisoner chained inside a cave; it is about the nature of human perception and consciousness. The allegory is useful not only for expressing an idea in a clear and vivid way but also for evoking a visceral reaction from the listener.

Defining allegory

An allegory is a usually a story or poem, verbal or written, which contains characters and events that symbolize ideas or beliefs about human life in general. An allegory used as a figure of speech can also represent a historical or political situation. The symbolic figures and actions of allegorical fiction often speak truths about human nature and existence, and can be represented in visual art as well, such as a painting or a computer graphic creation. The word allegory comes from the Middle English word allegorie, which is derived from the Latin allegoria, and the Greek allēgoria. Allēgorein means to speak figuratively, from allos meaning “other” and ēgorein meaning “to speak publicly.”

Allegory usage and rules

Allegory is used often in literary analysis and historical fiction writings; writers may describe two seemingly unlike situations or events and draw parallels between them. Fables, parables, and apologues are examples of allegory, and the famous writers Aesop and George Orwell made excellent use of allegory in historical and groundbreaking works of literature and storytelling. Allegory often makes use of abstract ideas and principles which are translated into characters or events within a work of literature, fiction, or art. Allegory can be used in writing or spoken word to teach or demonstrate an idea to the reader, often in the form of a moral or lesson that the reader takes away from the experience.

Allegory is different from symbolism because it consists of a complete narrative or work of art which contains different characters or events which represent abstract ides or real events. A symbol is a picture or idea that stands for another object and thereby gives it meaning. As an example, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” tells a story, a picture of a cave does not (you can buy an essay if need more examples using allegories).

Additional information

Allegory is a word used most often in reference to literary works, past or present. In politics, allegory may be present, and public speaking or political speeches are excellent places to find allegorical examples. George Orwell’s dystopian novels Animal Farm and 1984 are both allegorical examples of fiction works. Animal Farm is a commentary on the situation in Communist Russia before World War II, and parodies the deposing of Tsar Nicholas II through the use of a farm, animals on the farm, a drunken farmer, and a hypocritical set of commandments or laws which the animals attempt to follow unsuccessfully throughout the book. In 1984, the animals are given human characteristics, and become more and more human-like as the novel progresses. Authors such as Edmund Spenser (Fairie Queen), John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress), and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Young Goodman Brown) used allegory extensively in their writings.

Allegory is often used by research paper writers to add more layers of meaning and interpretation to a literary or fictional work, allowing characters to become more multidimensional and to represent more than just their literal meanings. A writer’s political and moral stance can be conveyed easily through the use of allegory, and allegory provides a platform for literary analysis and discussion over writing in general. Allegory has a close resemblance to metaphor, and is sometimes called an “extended metaphor” which equates the pieces of a narrative with ideas that are not contained within the narrative itself.

In mathematical category theory, an allegory is a category which contains some of the structure of the category of sets and the binary relations between those sets. Although this use of allegory represents an altogether different interpretation, sphere, and meaning of the word, the similarity to literary allegory is evident.

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