The Power of Symbolism

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Usually represented as a character or object, a symbol signifies an abstract meaning (Dr. Louis). Certainly authors could describe abstract meanings without the use of symbols, yet it may not be as effective. Symbols not only augment the creativity of a story, but also invoke the thoughts and emotions of readers. However, some readers have a difficult time identifying symbols, since simple objects such as coins or tape records may have abstruse meanings. Conversely, some readers “see symbolism where none exists,” and mistakenly associate objects or characters with philosophical meanings (Tierney). In Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” symbolism plays a significant role. In “Cathedral,” symbols such as: tape recordings, a peso coin, and a Cathedral portray the story’s meaning that sometimes the sighted may be blinded. “Everything That Rises Must Converge” includes symbols such as a hat, bus, and penny to reveal O’Connor’s message—the need for social progress. Although both stories include distinct symbols, their role is comparable as they aid readers in understanding the authors’ meaning.

Raymond Carver’s, “Cathedral,” opens with an unnamed narrator stating that his wife’s blind friend, Robert, will be visiting their house. Having never been around a sightless man before, the narrator is discontented about Robert’s visit, for he is unsure how to entertain him. He confesses that his knowledge about blindness comes only from watching movies and in those “the blind move slowly and never laugh” (Carver, 123). The narrator explains that his wife worked for Robert ten years earlier and has not seen him since. During those ten years, however, they have been in contact via exchang...

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...s not included in these stories, the message may be still understood, but it certainly would not be as effective.

Works Cited

Aull, Felice. "Literature Annotations." Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. New York University, 7 Dec. 2006. Web. 6 Apr. 2011.

Carver, Raymond. "Cathedral." The Story and Its Writer: an Introduction to Short Fiction. By Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 123-33. Print.

Dr. Louis. "Symbolism in Literature." Scribd. Scribd Inc., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

Joanna. "Why Do Authors Use Symbolism?" Why &, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2011.

O’Connor, Flannery. "Everything That Rises Must Converge." The Story and Its Writer: an Introduction to Short Fiction. By Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 651-62. Print.

Tierney, Gene. "Symbolism Quotes." BrainyQuote. BookRags Media Network, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

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