We have grown up reading books and tales with underlying morals. However, these morals and values weren’t explicitly mentioned. Rather, allegories were used that had deep meanings. Allegory is a technique of writing that helps authors create layers of meaning in any literary work.
Most of us are familiar with metaphors. Allegories aren’t that different from metaphors. Allegories use characters, objects, and even human actions to represent the underlying meaning – the meaning which is different from the literal meaning.
Famous Allegorical Works
From Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to allegorical stories in the New Testament, there are various examples. Let’s take a look at a few famous and top allegorical books with deep meaning.
These fiction stories are one of the very first allegorical works that people read. Aesop, the author, lived in ancient Greece and wrote quite a few short stories such as The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Fox and the Grapes, etc.
These short stories are widely known for the hidden moral message. To represent humans and their way of living, Aesop used animals and their actions in an allegorical way.
Since The Republic by Plato is a philosophical work instead of a literary work, it is not a very accurate example of this technique but nevertheless, it uses allegories. The Allegory of the Cave in this book is a representation of how man doesn’t question things around him and follows convention blindly.
The prisoners in the cave continue to think that this is their reality until one of them breaks free and sees that the world is much bigger and different than what they’d been seeing.
One of the most famous and best allegorical works to this day is the Divine Comedy by Dante. In this epic poem, Divine Comedy, Dante describes his journey through Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. This journey actually represents the journey of a soul to God and all the steps that are required for a person to reach purity of soul.
This book was published in 1499 and there is still a dispute about the author of this book. Most people believe that this book was written by Francesco Colonna. It is the story of Poliphilo, searching for Polio, his lover.
The book is written entirely in allegorical style and there are so many hidden mysteries and meanings in this work.
This book is another best-known example of allegorical books. In the book, Orwell’s Animal Farm, he uses animals living on a farm to represent the actions of Stalin, the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II, and the Russian Revolution before World War II. The struggles of the animals in the essay on Animal Farm represent how indifference and greed can corrupt revolution.
Moreover, it also details how people’s lives can be endangered in absence of a smooth transition of government. The historians and literary critics have even linked each character in the story to central players in the revolution. For instance, Nicholas II was represented by Mr Jones while Stalin was represented by Napoleon and a lot more.
Pilgrim’s Progress was written by John Bunyan and is another famous allegorical book in the literary world. John Bunyan was a preacher and he used his book to spread Protestantism. The book contains various representations and explores the concept of things that are necessary to achieve salvation.
The main characters were named as discretion, prudence, pliable, talkative, ignorance, etc. and each of them was used to explain each virtue and point clearly.
Romeo and Juliet
Even though Shakespeare’s famous work, Romeo and Juliet, isn’t an allegorical work in itself, there are various examples of allegory in this play. The constant comparison of the love that Romeo has for Juliet to a spiritual and religious experience is a good example.
In lines such as, “Call me but love and I’ll be baptized”, are allegorical in nature.
The Faerie Queene
This epic poem was written by Edmund Spenser in the praise of Queen Elizabeth I and is a great example of an allegorical literary piece. Even though the poem is incomplete, it is one of the longest poems in English literature.
Lord of the Flies
William Goulding excellently represented his ideas regarding human nature in his acclaimed novel. The human need of putting himself above everything else is beautifully depicted in this book.
This book has various allegorical representations of democracy, rational mind, order & civility, and plenty of other abstract terms. Allegories are oftentimes not very apparent in a book. To analyze allegory, you should read the book completely at first.
If you find any deeper meanings in the first read, take notes. Before trying to understand the deeper meaning, try to figure out the theme & plot of the story. This will help you figure out whether the hidden meaning you think you found is linked to the plot or not.
Study the characters and keep an eye on their views & actions. This will tell you how the author sees the world and what the hidden meaning behind each action is.
Top Allegorical Books – Final Word
Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer and Nobel prize winner once said. “An allegory is not meant to be taken literally. There is a great lack of comprehension on the part of some readers.” When you are studying allegorical works, this is what you need to keep in mind.
An allegory is a figure of speech that conveys deep, profound meaning and it is entirely up to the readers to understand it as per their capacities.