Expo Short: Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense.


Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another to give it an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant.
Sometimes, however, an action, an event or a word spoken by someone may have a symbolic value. For instance, “smile” is a symbol of friendship. Similarly, the action
of someone smiling at you may stand as a symbol of the feeling of affection which that person has for you. Symbols do shift their meanings depending on the context they are used in. “A chain”, for example, may stand for “union” as well as “imprisonment”. Thus, symbolic
meaning of an object or an action is understood by when, where and how it is used. It also depends on who reads them.


The term “symbolism” is derived from the word “symbol” which derives from the Latin symbolum,A symbol is the use of a concrete object to represent an abstract idea. The word symbol is derived from the Greek verb “symballein” which means “to put together and the related noun“symbolon” which means “mark”, “taken” or “sign”.Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal.

The Symbolist Manifesto:


Symbolism (arts) Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal.sts believed that art should represent absolute truths that could only be described indirectly. Thus, they wrote in a very metaphorical and suggestive manner, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning. Jean Moréas published the Symbolist Manifesto (“Le Symbolisme”) in Le Figaro on 18 September 1886 (see 1886 in poetry). The Symbolist Manifesto names Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Verlaine as the three leading poets of the movement. Moréas announced that symbolism was hostile to “plain meanings, declamations, false sentimentality and matter-of-fact description”, and that its goal instead was to “clothe the Ideal in a perceptible form” whose “goal was not in itself, but whose sole purpose was to express the Ideal”.


Symbolism gives a writer freedom to add double levels of meanings to his work: a literal one that is self-evident and the symbolic one whose meaning is far more profound than the literal one. The symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature. Symbolism in literature evokes interest in readers as they find an opportunity to get an insight of the writer’s mind on how he views the world and how he thinks of common objects and actions, having broader implications.


In our daily life, we can easily identify objects, which can be taken as examples of symbol such as the following:

  1. The dove is a symbol of peace.
  2. A red rose or red color stands for love or romance.
  3. Black is a symbol that represents evil or death.
  4. A ladder may stand as a symbol for a connection between the heaven and the earth.
  5. A broken mirror may symbolize separation.


In Sara Teasdale’s “Wild Asters”, ‘spring’ and ‘daisies’ are symbols of youth and ‘bitter autumn’ is a symbol of death:

In the spring I asked the daisies

If his words were true,
And the clever, clear-eyed daisies
Always knew.

Now the fields are brown and barren,
Bitter autumn blows,
And of all the stupid asters
Not one knows.

By: Sara Teasdale


Black : sorrow, evil, death, depression, judgment, evaluation, law,loneliness

Blue: coolness, calmness, idealism, truth, self-reliance, integrity

Brown: tradition, organization, solidarity, conventional ideas, earth,country, reliability

Gray : mediocrity, sickness, industrialization, aging

Green: Youth, vigor, the natural, harmony, balance, growth, nature,gentleness, reliability, calmness, rebirth, envy, jealousy, nobility,intellect.

Orange: physical vitality, pride, enthusiasm, ambition, mentality,endurance

Purple: royalty, riches, spirituality, magic, inner-awareness

Red : sexual passion, anger, healthy spontaneity, energy, life, blood,love, anger, bravery, strength, excitement, reformation, purification,trust, faith

White: purity, innocence, spirituality, holiness, peace, hope,wisdom

Yellow: sickness, weakness, decay, fear



Don’t forget to comment your feedback and queries below.



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