Allegory

Description of the Genre

The term ‘allegory’ derives from Greek allegoria, ‘speaking otherwise’. As a rule, an allegory is a story with a double meaning: a primary or surface meaning; and a secondary or under-the-surface meaning. It is a story, therefore, that can be read, understood and interpreted at two levels (and in some cases at three or four levels). It is thus closely related to the fable and the parable.

“Allegory teaches a lesson through symbolism. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation. An allegory in its most general sense is an extended metaphor.”*

The origins of allegory are very ancient, and it appears to be a mode of expression (a way of feeling and thinking about things and seeing them) so natural to the human mind that it is universal. Its fundamental origins are religious. Much myth, for example, is a form of allegory and is an attempt to explain universal facts and forces.

The best known allegory in the English language is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). This is an allegory of Christian Salvation. Christian, the hero, represents Everyman. The whole work is a simplified representation of the average man’s journey through the trials and tribulations of life on his way to Heaven.

Sources: Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory pp 20-21
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory

Text 1: Aesop's Fables


Background on Aesop
According to tradition, Aesop (pronounced ee-sop) was a Greek slave and storyteller who lived in the sixth century BC. Aesop.jpeg
His famous fables are cleverlytold, presenting human problems through the dilemmas of animal characters, a tradition than can be traced in the cultures of many different races. Though they were first told so long ago, the stories are still relevant today. Aesop must have been a keen observer of human nature and this has been captured in his fables.

We don't know if Aesop wrote his fables down, and no one knows if he really invented all of them, but we do know that they have been popular ever since.

Exercises
a) Questions
Read Aesop's fables below and complete the following questions in your Reading Journal. Alternatively, you could make your responses more interesting by trying one of these online tools:

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Use text, images and audio!

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Present your responses as an online poster.

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Create a dynamic presentation with Prezi!

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Present your responses in an online mindmap.

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Create a presentation with sticky notes, images and more!

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  1. Why do you think Aesop chose to use these particular animals? What human qualities or behaviour does each animal reveal?
  2. In ‘The Crow and the Fox’ find examples of language which reveal the qualities of each animal.
    ‘The Dog and His Reflection’ does not include as much descriptive detail so write your own description to show his greed, which could be inserted in the fable at some point, e.g. ‘His body, which was usually animated and quick was still; his gaze fixated on the prize below.’
  3. Invent a maxim, expressing the moral of the story, which could be included at the end of each fable.

b) Discussion
Respond to the following discussion.
Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Aesop's Fables: Structure claire_murray claire_murray 0 393 Nov 21, 2010 by claire_murray claire_murray


c) Genre Features
Open the Word document below and use Track Changes to complete this activity by using the Highlighting and Comment tool.

How many of these features appear in the fables?
  • Teaches a lesson through symbolism; involves a process of learning for both the main character(s) and the reader.
  • Uses an extended metaphor, which is well developed and spans the narrative.
  • Often uses the narrative structure of the journey, quest or pursuit.
  • Uses fictional characters and events which resemble the subject to communicate its message.
  • Characters represent abstract qualities such as lust, greed, good and evil, etc.
  • Story can be understood on two or more levels.
  • Language is concise and lucid.

d) Creative Writing
Length: 200 – 300 words
Choose ONE of the activities below:
  1. Drawing upon Aesop’s fables for inspiration, write your own fable/s which communicate a moral message. When thinking about characters, remember to choose animals or inanimate objects which are associated with the qualities or ideas which you are trying to convey.
  2. Write your own fable which ends with one of the following maxims:
  • Persuasion is better than force
  • Harm seek, harm find
  • It is foolish to judge by appearance

Writing tip: Aesop’s fables are typically short so be concise with your language.

Text 2: Animal Farm by George Orwell


Background on the novel
George Orwell’s famous novel Animal Farm is set on a farm (initially called ‘Manor Farm’) in England. The main characters are animals and there is one main human character, Mr Jones, the farmer.

Exercises
a) Questions
animal_farm.jpgRead the following extracts from Animal Farm and complete the questions below in your Reading Journal. Alternatively, you could make your responses more interesting by trying one of the online tools listed above.


  1. Read over old Major’s speech. What ideas and persuasive language devices does he use to inspire the animals to rebel against Man? List them and give examples.
  2. Why do you think commandment 4 has changed? Who might have changed it? What conclusions can you draw about life on the farm from this example? How do you think the novel ends?
  3. How might Animal Farm be considered allegorical? What links are there between life on the farm and human beings?
  4. Once you have come up with your own ideas for the question above, do some research on the internet to find out the ways that others have interpreted Animal Farm.

b) Genre Features
Open the Word document below and use Track Changes to complete this activity by using the Highlighting and Comment tool.

How many of these features appear in the story?
  • Teaches a lesson through symbolism; involves a process of learning for both the main character(s) and the reader.
  • Uses an extended metaphor, which is well developed and spans the narrative.
  • Often uses the narrative structure of the journey, quest or pursuit.
  • Uses fictional characters and events which resemble the subject to communicate its message.
  • Characters represent abstract qualities such as lust, greed, good and evil, etc.
  • Story can be understood on two or more levels.
  • Language is concise and lucid.


c) Creative Writing
Length: 200 – 300 words
Write your own short speech where you try to convince other students to create a rebellion against the teachers or adults in general. Remember to include a few persuasive language techniques in your speech.

Recommended Allegorical Fiction

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Aesop’s Fables, Aesop

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The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

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The Rabbits by John Marsden & Shaun Tan

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Fairytales e.g. ‘The Happy Prince’ & ‘The Selfish Giant’ by Oscar Wilde


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Fearless by Tim Lott

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

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His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman


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The Ghost Child by Sonya Hartnett

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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Rosie and Mr
Winterbottom
by Bob Graham