Symbolism... another great topic! I could discuss how literary critics sometimes read too much symbolism into works of literature... but I’ll try to follow the assignment, like a good little girl.
1) In the excerpt from “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” what do the woods symbolize? The obvious interpretation is the temptation to stray from one’s duties and obligations. The woods are described as “lovely, dark and deep.” Is the speaker, perhaps, being tempted to infidelity? To a different career path? Or just to indolence? Interesting question.
A more drastic interpretation (which I think I’ve heard from another source) is that the speaker is actually contemplating suicide, as Hamlet did in his “to be, or not to be” soliloquy. I can sort of see this, but I think it’s a stretch.
2) As Joanne pointed out, Hester’s child (Pearl) is a visible symbol of her adultery, just like the “scarlet letter” that she wears. This scene may foreshadow how Pearl will become part of the consolation and redemption that Hester achieves by bearing her shame openly.
3) As I read this very familiar Psalm, I think of Mordecai, who was honored by the King in the presence of his enemy, Haman. The table, the anointing, the cup... all seem to symbolize what one would provide for an honored guest, or even a child. In the context of the poem, they also symbolize the Lord supplying all our needs.
4) I love this hymn, which is so rich and meaningful! (You can find additional verses, by the way, at www.cyberhymnal.org
.) There are many symbols here, but the image of Christ as the Rose--blooming in winter in the dead of night--emphasizes the miraculous circumstances of His birth.
(Sorry, but I just have to digress for a moment and add... do follow the link to the recording of “Lo, How a Rose” in Jan’s post–it’s beautiful. And be sure and listen to “The Blessed Son of God,” which follows it. It’s from Hodie
, an extraordinarily beautiful Christmas choral work by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Now back to our regularly scheduled class...)
5) Tally already identified the wagoora
as a symbol of foreboding. That would have been my guess, too! Could the wagoora
(cawing, flapping its wings) also symbolize of the helpless, crying mother? Or would that be reading something into the text that the author didn’t intend?
6) Verna did such a great job identifying the symbols in your beautiful poem, Jan, that I really can’t add very much. Just one more detail. I noticed that Megan wanders near “the borders of the lawn.” This seems to symbolize how human beings often like to flirt with temptation, getting as close as possible to “the border” of wrongdoing without actually crossing it.
Thanks for another interesting discussion!