What Is Allegory?
(View all literary devices)
An allegory is a narrative that uses characters and plot to illustrate an abstract principle, often a moral or political one. Take the “Allegory of the Cave,” for instance. The Greek philosopher Plato demonstrates how a lack of education limits people’s understanding of reality by depicting men imprisoned inside a cave, only able to see shadows from the outside projects on an inner wall. Because they are cut off from the outside, they have a limited view of the world.
Many fairy tales, fables, poems, essays, and stories use allegory to drive home their author’s message. You can also find the device in television programs, especially cartoons and shows for children.
How Do You Identify Allegory in Writing?
Allegory functions much in the same way that symbolism does: something literal and concrete stands for something an abstract idea. But while a symbol is an object, place, or person, an allegory is a narrative that uses characters and plot to drive the message home.
Other elements of allegory in a work are flat and dimensionless characters, general or timeless settings, and the use of animals to represent human traits.
Examples of Allegories
1. George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, is an allegory about the problems arising out of Russian communism. The narrative uses animals represent human characteristics.
2. The popular trilogy, The Hunger Games, has been described as an allegory about King George’s imperial power over the 13 Colonies, represented in the series as 13 Districts.
2. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a spiritual allegory that shows how a character named “Christian,” who represents the average person of faith, goes on a journey to the Celestial City.
3. Aesop’s fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” is an allegory that shows how hard work and preparation are needed to survive hard times.
4. Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneeches,” in which the Star-bellied Sneeches lord a superficial change over the others, is a powerful allegory about bigotry and racism.