Symbolism is not my strong-suit (apparently alliteration is, I can't stop myself... Alliteration: Why I Love It).
I enjoy good symbolism in literature. Here is a fine dictionary definition:
In writing, symbolism is the use of a word, a phrase, or a description, which represents a deeper meaning than the words themselves. This kind of extension of meaning can transform the written word into a very powerful instrument.Indeed it can, but I suck at symbolism. At writing it. And sometimes at interpreting it. There are times when I don't get the cryptic references authors work into their stories. If the symbolism is fairly common, I'm on it. But if the representation is too subtle or vague it can pass right over my head.
In a writing group, we recently studied Kate Braverman's: Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta. It's a captivating and odd short story. After discussion, we determined that an entire character (one of only two) is symbolic. He (oops, I gave it away) isn't a real person but rather represents something else entirely. Bravo Kate.
Another example, I'm currently reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (love it!). I'm trying to figure out what the stuffed zebra symbolizes. His meaning and purpose are not clear to me yet.
So what I'm saying is: I am no good at working good symbolism into my fiction. This is an area where I need to grow as a writer. Can you help?
What are your favorite examples of symbolism in literature? If you're a fiction writer, do you work symbolism into your stories? Any tips, suggestions, observations?