I spoke in the previous chapter on Metaphor the difference between metaphor and symbolism. Make sure to work on establishing that difference while reading about symbolism. Also, make sure that you understand symbolism as revolving around symbols. Don’t tell me the symbolism active in an entire poem or even an entire line. When identifying symbolism, focus on particular symbols, people, places, things that are turned into symbolism based on the context in which they are used. Start with the specific symbolic item and move out into the context within which the symbol works. You can then speak about separate symbols working together. For instance, “The heroic men move into the burning building.” Say that the poem is about different kinds of heroes, you can focus on the men themselves as being symbolic of a type of hero. Then you can look at the burning building as a specific kind of danger or the moving into the building a specific kind of heroic activity. Then you can look at them together. Build your symbolic analysis piece by piece.

Also, notice how there are two different types of symbols pointed out, conventional and literary. A conventional symbol is a symbol that already has a clear symbolic meaning outside of the contextual, or literary, symbolism being built by the author. For instance, take my previous example. Perhaps the line says “The heroic men move into the burning building with American Flag patches on their sleeves.” Outside of all of the symbolism of the men, the burning building, and the moving into the burning building, you can analyze the American flag as a conventional symbol, which has all kinds of symbolic resonance.

Irony is also broken into categories, dramatic irony, verbal irony, and situational irony. Make sure you pay close attention to the differences between each type so that you can classify any irony that you find into one or the other.

Choose a poem and analyze it with one of the bold words/literary elements.