Symbols and Themes for How to Read Literature Like a Professor

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Last updated: April 30, 2019

Every Trip is a Quest “Except When it I’snt
In the book How to Read Like a College Professor states that in every book, novel, story, short story or etc no quest or trip is just any ordinary trip or quest. It has a meaning and/or a purpose. Every trip or quest needs a quester, a place to go, a reason to go to this mysterious place, challenges and trials a long the expedition, also the actual reason of going there, which usually tends to be self-knowledge.

Acts of Communion
In a story whenever the characters eat or drink together it symbolizes a communion. I know when you here the word communion you suddenly assume something that has to do with religion or usually something spiritual. However, it might mean or be an act of sharing peace.

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Though if it is a failed it mean that signifies a negative connotation.

Acts of being a Vampire
We all have read those twilight books, seen those vampire movies. However, did you know that there was always some tide message. Well let me give you some tips and pointers and knowledge on it 1) Literal Vampire is usually described as a nasty old man, attractive but evil, violates a young woman, leaves his mark, takes her innocenceThere is also a sexual meaning behind it a trait of the 19th century literature to address sex indirectly.

Also, vampires are very symbolic. They symbolize selfishness, exploitation, refusal to respect the autonomy of other people, using people to get what we want, placing our desires, particularly ugly ones,and above the needs of another.

Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before? (Copying, Repeating)
Authors tend to add connections between another story.

It usually tend to be the same story just with different characters, different scenarios but same situation, however, it usually is based on story. Like it stated in the book How to Read Like a College Professor, stories grow out of other stories and poems grow out of other poems. The stories of humanity are endlessly repeated and so is human nature. There is one vocab we have to learn and do while reading, that word is Interexuality.

That means “recognizing the connections between one story and another deepens our appreciation and experience, brings multiple layers of meaning to the text, which we may not be conscious of. The more consciously aware we are, the more alive the text becomes to us.”

When in Doubt, It’s from Shakespeare… (People Use A Lot Of Shakespeare in their Books)
Shakespeare is mostly use his work as a shorthand because he is frequently copied. Haven’t you noticed is some books they have some weird similarities as the characters from Shakespeare plays.Examples:1.

Hamlet: heroic character, revenge, indecision, melancholy nature2. Henry IV – a young man who must grow up to become king, take on his responsibilities3. Othello – jealousy4. Merchant of Venice – justice vs.

mercy5. King Lear – aging parent, greedy children, a wise fool

The Bible
During the 20th century, it was very common for writers to use look back on the bible for ideas because people were very familiar to the stories in the bible. Some stories of the bible had symbolic implications. These are some symbolism used from the stories of the bible writers usually use.

Example:1) Garden of Eden: women tempting men and causing their fall, the apple as symbolic of an object of temptation, a serpent who tempts men to do evil, and a fall from innocence2) David and Goliath: overcoming overwhelming odds3) Jonah and the Whale: refusing to face a task and being “eaten” or overwhelmed by it anyway.4) Job: facing disasters not of the character’s making and not the character’s fault, suffers as a result, but remains steadfast5) The Flood: rain as a form of destruction; rainbow as a promise of restoration6) Christ figures (a later chapter): in 20th century, often used ironically7) The Apocalypse: Four Horseman of the Apocalypse usher in the end of the world.8) Biblical names often draw a connection between literary character and Biblical character.

Using Fairy Tales and Children Literature
Writers use Fairy Tales and Children Literature to make stories and connections like the booksExample1) Hansel and Gretel: lost children trying to find their way home2) Peter Pan: refusing to grow up, lost boys, a girl-nurturer/3) Little Red Riding Hood: See Vampires4) Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz: entering a world that doesn’t work rationally or operates under different rules, the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Wizard, who is a fraud5) Cinderella: orphaned girl abused by adopted family saved through supernatural intervention and by marrying a prince6) Snow White: Evil woman who brings death to an innocent—again, saved by heroic/princely character7) Sleeping Beauty: a girl becoming a woman, symbolically, the needle, blood means womanhood, the long sleep an avoidance of growing up and becoming a married woman, saved by, guess who, a prince who fights evil on her behalf.8) Evil Stepmothers, Queens, Rumpelstiltskin9) Prince Charming heroes who rescue women. (20th c.

frequently switched—the women save the men—or used highly ironically)

Greek Mythology
My favorite Greek Mythology. Myths are the body of stories that matter because it is commonly used. The patterns present in run deep in the human psyche. The reason why writers echo myth is because of there is only one story.

They tend to usually use Odyssey and Iliad.Example:a) Men in an epic struggle over a womanb) Achilles: a small weakness in a strong man; the need to maintain one’s dignityc) Penelope (Odysseus’s wife): the determination to remain faithful and to have faithd) Hector: The need to protect one’s family4) The Underworld: an ultimate challenge, facing the darkest parts of human nature or dealing with death6) Metamorphoses by Ovid: transformation (Kafka)7) Oedipus: family triangles, being blinded, dysfunctional family8) Cassandra: refusing to hear the truth9) A wronged woman gone violent in her grief and madness: Aeneas and Dido or Jason and Medeaj) Mother love—Demeter and Persephone

Rain or Snow
Rain Symbolizes:a) Fertility and Lifeb) Rain is Clean – a form of purification, baptism, removing sin or a stainc) If the Rain is Restored – can bring a dying earth back to lifed) Rain can be Destructive – causes pneumonia, colds, etc.; hurricanes, etc.e) Rain and Rainbows – God’s promise never to destroy the world again; hope; a promise of peace between heaven and earth.SnowThey use Snow:Negatively – Cold, Inhuman, Death, Nothingness, InhospitablePositively – Clean, Pure, Playful, JoyWhy do we use Rain and Snow ?Answer: Writers use Rain and Snow as a plot device, for atmospherics and to challenge characters

Voilence
Violence is used Symbolic by being: Thematic, Biblical, Shakespearean, Romantic, Allegorical, and Transcendent.Two categories of violence in literatureCharacter caused it by: shootings, stabbings, drownings, poisonings, bombings, hit and run, etcDeath and suffering: for which the characters are not responsible. Accidents are not really accidents.Violence is symbolic action, but hard to generalize meaning

Symbols
1) Figuring out what they are is tricky.

Can only discuss possible meanings and interpretations2) There is no one definite meaning unless it’s an allegory, where characters, events, places have a one-on-one correspondence symbolically to other things.3) Actions, as well as objects and images, can be symbolic.4. How to figure the symbols out? Symbols are built on associations readers have, but also on emotional reactions. Pay attention to how you feel about a text.

Political
1) Literature tends to be written by people interested in the problems of the world, so most works have a political element in them2) The Issues Tend To Be:Individualism and self-determination against the needs of society for conformity and stability, power structures, relations among classes, issues of justice and rights, and interactions between the sexes and among various racial and ethnic constituencies.

Christ Figures
1. Characteristics of a Christ Figure:a) Crucified, wounds in hands, feet, side, and head, often portrayed with arms outstretchedb) In agonyc) Is self-sacrificingd) Good with childrene) Good with loaves, fishes, water, winef) Thirty-three years of age when last seeng) Employed as a carpenterh) Known to use humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferredi) Believed to have walked on waterj) Known to have spent time alone in the wildernessk) Believed to have had a confrontation with the devil, possibly temptedl) Last seen in the company of thievesm) Creator of many aphorisms and parablesn) buried, but arose on the third dayo) Had disciples, twelve at first, although not all equally devotedp) Very forgivingq) Came to redeem an unworthy world2. As a reader, put aside belief system.Why do Authors use Christ symbolically?Deepens our sense of a character’s sacrifice, thematically has to do with redemption, hope, or miracles.3) If used ironically, makes the character look smaller rather than greater

Flight and Flying
1.

Daedalus and Icarus2. Flying was one of the temptations of Christ3. Symbolically: freedom, escape, the flight of the imagination, spirituality, return home, largeness of spirit, love4.

Interrupted flight generally a bad thing5. Usually not literal flying, but might use images of flying, birds, etc.6.

Irony trumps everything

Sex
1. Female symbols: chalice, Holy Grail, bowls, rolling landscape, empty vessels waiting to be filled, tunnels, images of fertility2. Male symbols: blade, tall buildings3. Why?1. Before mid 20th c., coded sex avoided censorship2.

Can function on multiple levels3. Can be more intense than literal descriptions When authors write directly about sex, they’re writing about something else, such as sacrifice, submission, rebellion, supplication, domination, enlightenment, etc.

Baptism
1.

Baptism is symbolic death and rebirth as a new individual2. Drowning is symbolic baptism, IF the character comes back up, symbolically reborn. But drowning on purpose can also represent a form of rebirth, a choosing to enter a new, different life, leaving an old one behind.3. Traveling on water—rivers, oceans—can symbolically represent baptism. i.e. young man sails away from a known world, dies out of one existence, and comes back a new person, hence reborn.

Rivers can also represent the River Styx, the mythological river separating the world from the Underworld, another form of transformation, passing from life into death.4. Rain can by symbolic baptism as well—cleanses, washes5. Sometimes the water is symbolic too—the prairie has been compared to an ocean, walking in a blizzard across snow like walking on water, crossing a river from one existence to another (Beloved)6. There’s also rebirth/baptism implied when a character is renamed.

Seasons
There are four season.

They are Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. They are all very symbolic. They all are used to represent something in books and writing.Example:Spring – Fertility, Life, Happiness, Growth, Resurrection because of EasterSummer – Youth, Adulthood, Middle Age, Old Age, and DeathFall – Harvest, Reaping what we sow, Rewards and PunishmentsWinter – Hibernation, Lack of growth, Death, Punishment

Greatness/Victory
1.

Physical marks or imperfections symbolically mirror moral, emotional, or psychological scars or imperfections.2. Landscapes can be marked as well—The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot3. Physical imperfection, when caused by social imperfection, often reflects not only the damage inside the individual, but what is wrong with the culture that causes such damage4. Monsters1.

Frankenstein—monsters created through no fault of their own; the real monster is the maker2. Faust—bargains with the devil in exchange for one’s soul3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—the dual nature of humanity, that in each of us, no matter how well-made or socially groomed, a monstrous Other exists.4.

Quasimodo, Beauty and the Beast—ugly on the outside, beautiful on the inside. The physical deformity reflects the opposite of the truth.

Blindess
If a character is blind it is super sad. It usually tend to be ironic.

However, the character doesn’t always have to be physically blind they can be blind sighted for a situation. Many times blindness is metaphorical, be it usually tend to make us see a failure to see—reality, love, truth, etc.Darkness – Blindness; Light – Sight

Heart Defects/Disease
Heart disease gives us bad love, loneliness, cruelty, disloyalty, cowardice, lack of determination. It is socially, something on a larger scale or something seriously amiss at the heart of things.

Illness
1. Not all illnesses are created equal. Tuberculosis occurs frequently; cholera does not because of the reasons below2. It should be picturesque3.

It should be mysterious in origin4. It should have strong symbolic or metaphorical possibilities1. Tuberculosis—a wasting disease2. Physical paralysis can mirror moral, social, spiritual, intellectual, political paralysis3. Plague: divine wrath; the communal aspect and philosophical possibilities of suffering on a large scale; the isolation an despair created by wholesale destruction; the puniness of humanity in the face of an indifferent natural world4.

Malaria: means literally “bad air” with the attendant metaphorical possibilities.5. Venereal disease: reflects immorality OR innocence, when the innocent suffer because of another’s immorality; passed on to a spouse or baby, men’s exploitation of women6.

AIDS: the modern plague. Tendency to lie dormant for years, victims unknowing carriers of death, disproportionately hits young people, poor, etc. An opportunity to show courage and resilience and compassion (or lack of); political and religious angles7.

The generic fever that carries off a child

Entering the Book
To become with a book you have to learn to pretend to be in the book as if you were actually part of it. Don’t read from you point of view try to understand what the writer is trying to say and show you.Find a reading perspective that allows for sympathy with the historical movement of the story, that understands the text as having been written against its own social, historical, cultural, and personal background. We don’t have to always agree with the author.

However, we should at least try to recognize there qualities they present. It’ll make reading and understand much easier.

Irony
Irony the hardest thing to understand in my opinion.

Irony triumphs everything in any story. Irony doesn’t work for every writer. It is very difficult to write and hard to recognize in stories which makes reading the story even harder.

Example: Waiting for Godot – journeys, quests, self-knowledge turned on its head. Two men by the side of a road they never take and which never brings anything interesting their way.

Geography
Geography in books and stories usually represent the human psyche, basically, the heart of darkness.

Some way of spotting Geography and understanding is hard. Here are some thing you might see while reading things these are what you might see and hat they represent or symbolize: Going south=running amok and running amok means having a direct, raw encounter with the subconscious. Low places: swamps, crowds, fog, darkness, fields, heat, unpleasantness, people, life, deathHigh places: snow, ice, purity, thin air, clear views, isolation, life, death

Mowing
Used to represent hard work, purification, life and nature.

Falling Down Stairs
Usually tends to mean the loss of virginity and someone getting raped

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