The appeal of the allegory

Until I was fifteen, I had never even heard of an allegory. The world of the symbolic novel, where things meant more than what they seemed, wasn’t something I had even considered a possibility. The first time I ever came into contact with an allegory was when I was assigned William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for my GCSE prose. I have to say, my first time reading Golding’s novel didn’t go down so well with me. I’ve said before that I’ll read anything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will enjoy all of them. It was hailed as a classic to my classmates and me by our teacher, but all it was about was a group of boys stranded on an island falling into chaos while they await rescue. Right?

Wrong.

After reading the novel once, we were handed the information that transformed the boy scout-esque novel into something a whole lot bigger. For me, the moment Lord of the Flies became an allegory was a game changer. Ralph was no longer just the typical good guy, trying to save the day. Ralph was now leadership and democracy incarnate. He wielded that shell that wasn’t just a shell; the conch meant freedom of speech. And Jack wasn’t just an out of control young man with a mean streak; he was the physical embodiment of anarchy and savagery. As for the Beast, the creature that terrorised the boys during their time on the island, it wasn’t a snake lurking among the vines, or a creature that crawls from the sea. It was the darkness inside of all of us.

Finding out that the characters and themes in the novel meant more than what they appeared to really intrigued me for some reason. Why, I couldn’t really tell you. And it’s something I’ve seen joked about to teachers often. They harp on that the curtains were blue because it reflects the melancholy nature of the character’s situation, when maybe the colour blue was just the first colour that popped into the author’s head while writing. Teachers latch on to the idea that everything in a novel has a deeper meaning. And in many ways they might be correct.

When I was seventeen I had to write an assignment on the idea that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby could be seen as the quintessential allegorical novel. Unlike Lord of the Flies, I thought The Great Gatsby was a great novel by itself. No one in the class had really considered the idea of it being an allegory at any time, and as far I’m aware, it wasn’t written as one. But it’s amazing that when you dig deep enough, you’ll find some symbolism somewhere. Take Daisy for example. On the surface she appears as the innocent, doe-eyed unfortunate young woman trapped in a loveless marriage while her one true love resides on the other side of the water. Only after some time do you come to realise that she’s actually rather corrupt, and she would never leave the security of Tom Buchanan’s old money for Jay Gatsby’s new money.

Look at a daisy, and you quickly begin to see that her name may have some reason behind it. On first glance at a daisy you would more than likely only see the white petals, same thing with Daisy the character, you only see the purity and innocence, until you look again and see the little yellow centre that links directly to the green stem. That right there is the corruptness of young Daisy, which is fed directly by her love and need for money. Pretty cool, right? There is so much that could be seen as symbolic in The Great Gatsby, and I don’t think a lot of it was even intentional.

Something about an allegorical novel just appeals to me. One of my top ten reads of all time is an allegory; George Orwell’s Animal Farm. A great, great read that sits as a constant reminder to everyone just how corrupt a seemingly perfect government can really be. Of course, by themselves, novels are almost always interesting to me in some way. But there is something about the added theme of the allegory that will always make the read even more appealing to me. They always allow me to dive that little bit deeper into the novel, and as an analytical and avid reader, what more could I possibly want from a novel?

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

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