Recognizing Symbols Meanings of Symbols

symbols range may be cultural, meaning that it is known by members of cultural groups: ethnic groups, religious groups, national groups, and so on. Some people believe that some symbols have a universal range of meaning; that is, like C. G. Jung, they believe that some symbols occur with the same meaning across individual and cultural boundaries. These universal symbols are often called archetypes, especially by followers of Jung. While there is much evidence to support the existence of universal symbols, or archetypes, one must remember that any use of a symbol is specific, and that makes its meaning specific. Just as the word tree used in a sentence has a specific meaning, rather than the general meaning given in the dictionary, so an archetype used in a work of art has specific meanings, rather than a general meaning one might find in a dictionary of archetypes.

D. Recognizing Symbols

When is a clock just a clock, and when is it also a symbol with a meaning or meanings beyond its literal significance? If a character waiting for a friend once glances at his or her watch to verify the time, there may be nothing symbolic about the watch or about the act of looking at it. If, however, the watch keeps appearing again and again in the story, at key moments; if the narrator devotes a good deal of time to describing it; if it is placed in a conspicuous physical location; if characters keep noticing it and commenting on its presence; if it lost or found at a critical moment; if its function in some way parallels the development of plot or character for instance, if it stops as a relationship ends or as a character dies; if the storys opening or closing paragraph focuses on the timepiece; or if the story is called The Watch- the watch probably has some symbolic value. In other words, considering how an image is used, how often it is used, and when it appears will help the readers to determine whether or not it functions as a symbol. 13

E. Meanings of Symbols

To find the meaning of symbols or allegories appear in a literature work or play is not an easy task. And also to find the meanings of symbols in Curse of the Starving drama, reading from the drama alone will not be sufficient. What happened during the period of writing may influence the productions of the drama. The way of life of American people, its government system, and so on, must also be understood well, when we try to understand the drama better. Symbol is the arbitrary and conventional linguistics element substitutes the relation of object and its signification. Words, sentences, and signs are the kinds of symbol. A symbol may have more than one meaning. It may suggest a cluster of meanings. At its most effective a symbol is like a many-sided jewel: it flashes different colors when turned in the light. This is not to say that it can mean anything we want it too: the area of possible meaning is always controlled by the context. Nevertheless, this possibility of complex meaning, plus concreteness and emotional power, gives the symbol its peculiar compressive value. 13 Laurie G. Kirszner Stephen R. Mandell, Literature Reading Reacting Writing Florida: Hotl, Rinehart and Winston Inc., 1991, p. 250. According to Romantics view, if one wishes to reach the original, pure meaning of the work of art including drama, one has to go beyond the product, beyond the object itself, back into the state of mind in which the artists vision. It is due to the artist represented the human individual at his best, the human spirit at its highest reaches. And as for the substance of artistic work, all begins with a state of mind and ends with a work of art as the product. Therefore, exploring the mind of the author is necessary according to this view. 14 There are factors that establish the limits of meaning. Several possibilities suggest themselves with regard to this question: authors, audience, context, society, language, and the text itself. 15 1 Author. Nothing would appear more obvious that the author determines the meaning of a text. Indeed, because the author creates the text, it must be the author who determines the boundaries of its meaning. After all, the author selects and arranges the signs of which a text is composed to convey a specific meaning to an audience. 2. Audience. If the author does not determine the meaning of the text, then it could be the audience that does so. Often audiences know better the meaning of a text than the historical authors, and this could be explained by saying that they do because they determine the meaning. 3. Context. It could also be regarded as what determining the meaning of text. 4. Society. Society may also be considered as the determining factors of the limits of the meaning of the text. After all, society at large is responsible for the development of the signs that compose non-stipulate 14 Zygmunt Bauman, Hermeneutics and Social Science, New York: Columbia University Press, 1978, p. 25. 15 Jorge 1. E. Gracia, a Theory of Textuality, New York: State University of New York Press, 1995, p. 114. texts and the rules that govern the arrangements of those signs. 5 Language. A language seems virtually to contain in it all the possible texts and their meanings that can be expressed in that language. 6. Text. One of the most prevalent views on this matter nowadays is that the limits on the meaning of texts are exclusively imposed by the texts themselves. 7 Cultural function. A key element that has not been mentioned is the cultural function that the text has, for the function of the text as determined by the culture in which the text is produced. A culture, then, understood as a community of persons who share certain values, beliefs, and rules of behavior, determines the function of texts and those functions in turn establish the overall parameters of meaning.

F. Literary Symbols

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