In everyday life we encounter many symbols every day. Logos of companies and brands, traffic signs, peace, goodness and environmental marks, but also arrows, raised or lowered thumbs, asterisks, little hearts, smilies – all these are symbols.
What is common to these symbols is that they characterize not only objects, facts, actions, or general concepts through an image. But also that they all stand for a content, which is abstract and thus with the eyes not perceptible. The high-raised thumb means, for example, “good”, a red traffic light “stand”. A red rose or heart stands for “love” and a dove for “peace”.
There are symbols whose meaning is derived from the image itself. This is the case with many pictograms. Pictograms are symbols whose meaning has been internationally defined and which represent, in the simplest and most easily understood form, what they signify. A skull, for example, means “poison”, an iron in a wash instruction of a “ironing” sweater, the simplified representation of a woman on a door “mantel” or an arrow points in the direction to go.
In addition to these self-explanatory symbols, there are also symbols that can not be understood at all or only partially from the image itself. We understand these symbols only when we know their social context or context. The dove, for example, means for us “peace” only because we know that it is a kind of warfare of the peace movement. For the understanding of the symbol this knowledge is sufficient. The background that the dove became a symbol of peace, because in the history of Noah’s Ark, the Bible announces the end of the dispute between God and man, one does not necessarily need to know, but deepens the understanding of the meaning of the symbol.
In addition to the dove, there have also been and are always fictitious and real objects, plants, Animals, persons and their actions, yes, even colors and numbers that have become and become a symbol through their history. For example, the cross for the Christians is the symbol of the healing death of Jesus, the figure Odysseus symbol for the man wandering through life or the person Che Guevara symbol for the independent freedom struggle.
Symbols whose meaning has arisen through history are often ambiguous, sometimes occurring in different cultures with different meanings and can also change over time. For a long time, for instance, the apple was regarded as the symbol of love and fertility, the other as a symbol of temptation, of knowledge and also of sin. Today, for many, the apple symbolizes probably only a well-known computer manufacturer.
While these symbols, created by their history, can be explained by their historical, ie, historical, background, there are also symbols which are pure signs, that is, they represent nothing objective as a graphic representation. They are only defined by the conscious assignment of a certain meaning to the symbol. The sign for radioactivity or blindness or visual impairment are, for example, such symbols.
Since the decoding of symbols is very difficult in some cases, there are different lexicons of the symbols which describe and explain the origin, transformation and meaning of the different symbols.
Symbols in the literature
While in everyday life symbols are generally used to pack an abstract, therefore purely conceptual, fact into a picture, symbols are, in the literature, a popular means of giving a deeper, multi-layered meaning to the depicted. Symbols are very well suited to this because they embody an abstract, ie, only conceptual or conceptual idea, as a single, concrete or representational symbol.
For example, if an author uses a ring as a symbol in a story, he does not mean merely the graphic sign of a circle, or the object for which the sign stands, but an abstract concept that is behind the sign. In the case of Ring , this abstract concept could, for example, be a connection or a promise .
Another author, who uses a clock as a symbol in his text, certainly means not only the object with which one can read the time but also use the clock as an example of transience.
Symbols thus leave the general (bond / transience) visible in detail (ring / clock). In this way, they point beyond themselves to a higher intellectual, holistic and unspoken general connection. Means certainly not only the object with which one can read the time but also the use of the clock as an example of transience. Symbols thus leave the general (bond / transience) visible in detail (ring / clock). In this way, they point beyond themselves to a higher intellectual, holistic and unspoken general connection. Means certainly not only the object with which one can read the time but also the use of the clock as an example of transience. Symbols thus leave the general (bond / transience) visible in detail (ring / clock). In this way, they point beyond themselves to a higher intellectual, holistic and unspoken general connection.
But how do you know that an object, a figure, or a concept is used as a symbol in a text?
Symbols are usually found in a text because they are of particular importance in the particular text. This is the case, for example, in which the author directs a kind of literal spotlight (headlight) to the respective term. In the example with the ring and the clock, such an emphasis would be noticeable, because both objects are incidental in everyday life. However, one can also give the words symbolic meaning by letting them appear in the text again and again.
In the same way, it would be conceivable to turn the whole story around the respective terms. To stay with the ring in the example: In fact, there are several stories in which rings play a big role and become a symbol. In the literature on children and young people, the ring symbol in the romantry Lord of the Rings of JRR Tolkien is known. Here, the ring symbolizes both bond and power, as well as division and loss of power.
Sometimes words also appear as symbols because they are only properly understood if one can decipher their abstract meaning behind the actual sign. For example, a text in which an author writes to be himself a clock is conceivable. This is only understood when you read the clock as a symbol.
In addition to deepening and referring to a holistic, conceptual context, symbols in the literature also serve to present facts or thoughts without having to lose many words. For too many words can destroy the poetic character of poetry. The use of symbols also serves to poetise the text. Too many symbols or symbols that do not fit into the text, however, destroy the poetic overall effect.
When using symbols, the author does not only access existing symbols. Rather, he himself often developed symbols by filling objects or facts with meaning.
Such a self-invented symbol, for example, is the black spot Robert Louis Stevenson invented for his novel The Treasure Island . The black point means here that the pirate, to whom the black point is shown, will soon die. Even if the reader does not fully understand the meaning of the black point in its entire scope, the symbol is sensed equally. This is because the black point is threatening and you feel that it means much more than just a black spot on a pad. This causes the black dot to float over the entire text as a stress-promoting symbol.
Like the black point, most of the symbols are often captured with emotion before the mind can interpret and analyze them. The comprehensive, rational interpretation of symbols is often only possible when one reads the entire text. Because the symbol is often related to the entire text and points beyond the pure text point.
Sometimes the symbolism of a text is not even understood by reading the one work, but only in connection with the other works of the respective author. The fairy tale of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe contains, for example, the terms “ferryman”, “river”, “snake”, “lily”, “crystal” and a “golden”, “silver” and “ore” king and many others Things that point beyond themselves, Very many symbols. Without the knowledge of Goethe and his literary work, it would be impossible to decipher this symbolic text. And even if one is well acquainted with Goethe’s work, it is difficult to understand the symbols in the sense that Goethe supposedly meant. To this day the spirits divorced how the fairy tale could really be interpreted.
In addition to these symbols, which have a meaning within a single text or entire work of an author or poet, there are also symbols which stand for an author group or even epoch. A well-known example is the Blue Flower. It was created by Novalis in his romantic novel fragment Heinrich von Ofterdingen as a symbol of infinite love and poetry and its ability to unite all that is separated. Then the Blue Flower was in the romance popular symbol of the desire for union with the other in perfect love, but also with the absolute and the infinite.
Just as the symbols themselves change their meaning over time, the meaning or the function ascribed to symbols is always changing.
While in the Middle Ages symbols had, for example, primarily the function of symbolizing the divine truth and the order of the world, they should embody the power of genius in the epoch of storm and urge . In the classical symbols, however, were used primarily to represent the depth and multiple layers of the General in particular, while they were in the Romantic viewed primarily as a way to express the unspeakable. In symbolism, the symbol became the conscious medium, the solitary,
Even though the symbol has always been reinterpreted and used, all symbols have to be a common, concrete, perceptible symbol or symbol, which is representative of an abstract, non-visible fact.