It's one of those smart people questions today. . . I'll still try my best! :)
Question suggested by Barbara H:
My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn't seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.
It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?
I was not one of those who read looking for hidden meaning. I still have trouble finding the symbolism when I know it's supposed to be there. I think I got through my high school and college English classes by making a lot of stuff up. I'm a pretty straight-forward person. I don't like hidden meanings and big secrets. In my opinion, I don't think this makes me less intelligent or less of a reader than anyone else. It's just the way I am made. We all learn in different ways.
When I think of books that are loaded with symbolism, I do find that they tend to be older books. I think it is an older literary device that isn't used as much. I'm pretty convinced that there are no hidden meanings in some of the books I read these days. Some books are so cut and dry that I can't imagine they mean something more.
I think the example that comes to mind for me when I think of symbolism is the Narnia series. It's well known that C.S. Lewis used Christian imagery and symbolism in his stories. Even I can see some of that! He did a great job too. Anyone who wasn't looking for it, would just think the books were great fantasy, adventure books. Which they are of course. My 5th grade teacher read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the class but never mentioned anything having to do with Christianity. She couldn't, it was a public school, but still I never noticed. It was several years later that I found out that they were "Christian" books.