Hidden Symbols in American LiteratureEric Merlin
Literature is one of the oldest art forms; it plays an important role in modern history by telling us timeless tales that were captured through quill and ink ages ago. Literature served many purposes; apart from telling a story, literature served as a means for spreading ideas and contributed to widespread enlightenment.
Old American literature saw many changed through time, and, with it, the symbols and themes found in these texts changed, too. There is a stark contrast between the works of older writers, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, and newer ones, like Arthur Miller. An even greater change is noted when observing works penned in the 21st century.
Where American literature from the 20th century focused more on themes concerning history, racism, freedom, and the American Dream, 21st-century texts tend to talk more about the human condition through a modern lens and beg the reader to give racial, sexual, and mental diversity a chance.
These themes were represented through powerful symbols. For example, in A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller, who is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of America, uses the bridge as a symbol to highlight the difference between the upper and lower classes.
There are many other classic symbols in American literature that resonate all too true with the human mind. These symbols beg us to take notice of the world around us and open the doors to enlightened thinking.
Why Were These Symbols Hidden?
Any fan of American literature knows how freely American writers employed symbolism in their work; most of these symbols are hidden and are easy to miss. But why would a writer hide these symbols within the folds of their text?
The answer to this is simple; literature has always been a tool used by free thinkers to promote an idea they believed in. However, these ideas often conflicted with the general beliefs of society and were even considered “forbidden” in some societies.
As a result, writers had to make sure these symbols were hidden; the symbols called for societal reformation, which people in power did not allow. Any writer who dared state their revolutionary ideas in a blatant fashion was considered an outcast and shunned by society.
In extreme cases, these writers could be deemed as radicals and a threat to society; many of them feared facing jail time. As a result, these writers ended up hiding their symbols, so only those who paid attention would pick up on them.
The Importance of Symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has a place in the top 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century thanks to its unique insight into the human condition. The American gem was originally intended for an adult audience, but is popular amongst teenagers, too, as it talks about the pains of growing.
The novel follows the lives of multiple teenagers, particularly Holden Caulfield. Popular symbols seen in Catcher in the Rye include Holden’s red hunting hat and Allie’s baseball glove. These were both powerful symbols that carried plenty of importance and resonated with readers of all ages.
The red hunting hat represents the insecurities that are woven through his eccentric personality. The hat is red, which is a colour that represents passion and desire. Within the context of the book, red represents a desire to be different, to stand out, which is a common theme in every teenager’s life.
Allie’s baseball glove is a symbol, too; this one represents Holden’s desire to preserve the childlike innocence he sees in younger kids. Though it may not seem like it at first, the glove bears great symbolism because it is covered in writing, which is the main form of communication Holden enjoys.
These symbols are important because they help deliver a message; without symbolism, literature would be dry and have little meaning.
It is interesting to note that the writer himself did not decree these objects as symbols; instead, their symbolism was decided by the readers. This is another reason why they’re called “hidden” symbols is that the author almost never explicitly states their symbolism; instead, the meaning behind certain objects or props is deciphered by the reader.
Why is it Important to Analyze Symbols?
Taking The Catcher in the Rye as an example, we can see that symbolism is important because it helps deliver a message to the reader that would otherwise be difficult to deliver. Symbols also tend to stay in people’s minds longer, hence providing emphasis to the idea or cause that the symbol in question represents.
There are many fantastic essay samples on symbols and their importance; you can easily find many research papers on Catcher in the Rye online. These essay examples will help you understand the author’s message better.
Analyzing symbols can give us insight into the author’s mind. Some things are better when portrayed through symbols, like objects and actions, rather than stating them through regular words. Symbolism is when objects, or actions, have greater power than words; they leave a mark.
Symbolism is smartly woven into the very fabric of literature; it’s near impossible to find a well-known literary piece, especially in fiction, that doesn’t bear any symbols in it.
So, next time you’re reading a book, make sure to keep an eye out for interesting symbols the author may have hidden inside the text!