Years ago, Sister Mary Corita Kent, a celebrated artist and educator of the 1960’s and 1970’s stated, “A painting is a symbol for the universe. Inside it, each piece relates to the other. Each piece is only answerable to the rest of that little world. So, probably in the total universe, there is that kind of total harmony, but we get only little tastes of it” (Lewis "Quotes from Women Artists"). Nowadays, a painting is not the main form of art humans appreciate. In fact, literature of all sorts can be considered a different form of art and often found in literature are symbols. A "symbol" is an object, person or action which represents an abstract idea (Warren “English 102”). In literature, a symbol or set of symbols can have a wide range of meanings. For example, color is a universal symbol; some may say it is a general symbol for life. However, each color separately can symbolize something different depending on the context. Analyzing five piece of literature for symbolism, one will be able to gain a deeper understating of symbols.
To begin, the short story by Charlotte Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” uses the deteriorating wallpaper to represent the narrator’s failing mind. The narrator is suffering and is confined in an uncomfortable house in a room she did not choose; she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper of the room. As the yellow wallpaper represents the narrator’s mind, the statement made by the narrator, “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others” refers to the condition of her mind by suggesting her condition is revolting and unclean. She is fading away in the sunlight of the room being almost sickly (Gilman 766). Paragraph 163 suggests the narrator believes the statement made by her sister-in-law is simply a decoy for Jennie’s true intentions, The narrator believes Jennie is interested in the wallpaper’s pattern or rather how the narrator’s mind operates and the narrator is determined that she will be the only person to figure out the wallpaper and essentially, know how her own mind works. The narrator’s sister-in-law says in paragraph 163:
“That the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John's, and she wished we would be more careful! Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!” (Gilman 772)
Finally, with the sentence, “It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw--not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things,” the narrator suggests the color of the wallpaper is peculiar and unpleasant, likewise suggesting that the state of her mind is also peculiar and unpleasant (Gilman 772). In this instance, not only is the color emblematic, but the object of which...