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6.5 Characters as symbols, metaphors, and archetypes

3 min readmarch 15, 2023

Ariella Ramjohn

Ariella Ramjohn


AP English Literature 📚

145 resources
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Introduction

Writers make intentional decisions on how to present their literary works. This includes manipulating literary elements to convey a specific purpose or meaning. The meaning of the work can shift from being literal to figurative through representations, associations, and comparisons proposed by the author. These connections enable readers to formulate interpretations since the writing becomes more comprehensive.
Identifying the meaning of a literary work is closely related to understanding symbolism. Symbols refer to objects in which can represent an idea or concept as well as emphasize different meanings. Readers are left to interpret these meanings from their own experiences and context from the text. Some symbols can be recurrent and common, allowing readers to make connections or associations prior to previewing the text. Other symbols can be contextualized and, thus, represent concepts or ideas that can only be understood by reading the text. Characters can also be symbolic and stand for ideas or concepts.

Style & Structure

When determining the function of a symbol, it is important to consider the overall structure and style of a text. Throughout this unit, we have studied many intended decisions in which writers make to craft a meaningful piece of literature. This lesson in particular will focus on how symbolism (which can be portrayed through archetypes and metaphors) helps to create meaning and develop purposeful writing.

Archetypes

Symbolic characters can sometimes become common enough to be considered archetypal. Archetypes refer to aspects (including characters, situations, themes, symbols, settings, etc.) in which shape a writing piece by representing universal patterns (in reference to human behavior/nature). Archetypes tend to influence the structure of a text seeing as though patterns are developed consistently throughout a story.
Analyzing the format of paragraphs helps to establish a meaningful structure as well as potential patterns. The time period is also important to consider: prose writers of the seventeenth century leaned towards writing lengthy paragraphs in which can be considered chapters in modern-day. The passages on the AP exam range from a single lengthy paragraph to a cluster of shorter ones. With poems, each part is developed intentionally to develop the poem as a whole. Despite the different kinds of texts given, readers can still notice how different portions or paragraphs of a text can relate to one another. Recognizing these details and making connections between them helps to build on a reader's interpretations or analysis of the text overall.

Metaphors

As explained more in previous lessons, metaphors tend to implicitly compare or apply two aspects with one another. Extended metaphors are continuously carried out through a text with a variety of writing strategies employed by the author. However, other elements (e.g. imagery, diction, syntax, and figurative language) are manipulated by writers to develop a sense of style.
Style can vary between authors: the writing style of Charles Dickens may not be the same as John Steinbeck's, yet both can still be considered effective in terms of conveying their intended message or purpose. Recognizing style involves analyzing the rhetoric of the passage, also referred to as the way words are used to influence or persuade the audience. However, simply analyzing a text does not guarantee readers will understand it. In order to understand any possible metaphors or the symbolism of the style used, readers should make interpretations. The potential effect and purpose of these elements can, therefore, become more clear with these interpretations.
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🤔Exam Skills
🌱Unit 1 – Intro to Short Fiction
Unit 2 – Intro to Poetry
🎭Unit 3 – Intro to Longer Fiction & Drama
⚔️Unit 4 – Character, Conflict, & Storytelling in Short Fiction
🌈Unit 5 – Structure & Figurative Language in Poetry
🛠️Unit 6 – Literary Techniques in Longer Works
🏛️Unit 7 – Societal & Historical Context in Short Fiction
🤾🏾‍♀️Unit 8 – Advanced Techniques in Poetry
🚣🏾Unit 9 – Nuanced Analysis in Longer Works

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