- Allegory and Motif
The theme of a story is usually abstract and broad. The theme of a story is usually related to a general idea or thought that is advanced by the plot of a story. Every story tapers a general underlying idea, molds it in an exceptional way, and styles the fundamental ideas in a tangible manner. Generally the theme of a story epitomizes the basic idea behind the story. For one to effectively recognize the theme of a story, it is essential to contemplate beyond the plot. The plot talks of the events in the story but the theme talks of what the story is all about.
A symbol can be said that to be something that has a literal meaning but also holds other intricate meanings. It is something that is broadly comprehended and has been constructed since the times of our ancestors through common agreement. A good example of a symbol is the national flag. Literally the flag is viewed as a colored piece of cloth, with multiple patterns of stripes and stars. But one can not help but feel that it is something else, which is abstract and can not be easily explained by the use of words. The symbol of a flag represents a nation; this is what differentiates a nation from the other (Goldwater, 1979).
The consequence of symbols in literature can be strengthened by paradoxical use, when it used to pass a meaning that is contrary to its convectional meaning. From Ernest Hemingway’s short story, the hills ‘’Hills like white elephants’’ are used in a paradoxical sense. Rather than appearing to be pleasant and signifying good things, they serve to be reminiscent of the bad, frightening and unpleasant events that the woman in the story goes through. The distant hills instead of symbolizing a beautiful place where she could retreat to, seem to appear like white elephants which is ironic. They serve as a reminder that the choices she makes may be detrimental in future. The irony is that the hills which are conservatively known as a symbol of peace, serenity and calmness suddenly seem not to poses these essential qualities. The sarcasm depicted by the girl does not only reveal her emotions but also underwrites the theme of the story. The American`s flagrant dishonesty further reinforces the theme. The aloof mountains and rivers symbolize division; the girl is far away from realizing a solution to her problems (Hemingway, 1997).
Allegory and Motif
Motif can be simply defined as the constant reappearance of the theme in a story. Allegory on the other hand is a narration created to show a hidden concept or system that dwells away from the story. Leonard Cohen in the poem Go by Brooks, uses an invitation to travel beyond the brooks, rivers, and the oceans as an allegory to illustrate cumulative challenges that we go through life (Cohen, 1973). Jean Rhys in ‘’I used to live here once’’ shows how a motif created by a journey can be put to use as an allegory. The journey linked to brooks, rivers, and the oceans portrays fidelity in an emotional relationship, but on a broader scale, it recognizes the common human journey from the world of naivety in to the world of knowledge, where encounters and decisions become increasingly challenging (Rhys, 1979).
Many writers prefer to state their theme indirectly rather than directly. Usually the first hint of the theme may be found in the title or names attributed to the characters. Regardless of how the theme is revealed it is always inferred.
Cohen, L. (1973). The spice-box of earth. London: J. Cape.
Goldwater, R. J. (1979). Symbolism. New York: Harper and Row Pub.
Hemingway, E. (1997). The short stories. New York: Scribner Classics.
Rhys, J. (1979). Sleep it off lady: Stories. London: Penguin Books.