". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

National Poetry Month, Day 12

A literary technique that is commonly used in both poetry and prose is that of symbolism. A symbol is something that has both literal and figurative meaning. In other words, a symbol is both an actual physical object and something else that it stands for. It is different from a metaphor or simile because it is not a comparison between two things but instead a single thing with multiples levels of meaning. Some symbols are fairly obvious, easy to understand, and common to many writers. For example, the color white is often used to symbolize purity or innocence, while black may represent evil or death. A seed may represent hope, and a tree strength. Below are some things that could be used to represent other things. What might each symbolize?

a clock
the color red
a snake
a cave
a house

Bonus word: a symbol that recurs over and over with the same meaning is an archetype. An archetype is so common to the human experience that we hardly even think of it as a symbol and we almost universally associate the object with its symbolic meaning. 

One of the most famous poems ever written is "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. What is the main symbol in this poem? What does it stand for? Do you think it's an archetype?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Brook in the Woods, Theodore Clement Steele (1889)

An interesting piece of trivia about "The Road Not Taken" is that, while readers tend to interpret it as a serious reflection on an important decision, Frost is said to have written it to tease a friend of his, another poet named Stanley Burnshaw who was having a hard time making up his mind about something. Is there anything in the poem that might suggest it is not completely serious?

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