A figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another, especially a symbolic narrative or a presentation of an abstract or spiritual meaning under concrete or material forms. In other words, it's a story where something in the story symbolizes something out in the real world. This is more than saying, "Whoa, man, a skull is, like, symbolic of death, ya know? Totally heavy..." Simple symbolism is not the same thing as allegory. An allegory should be story/book/film-length or longer and should maintain the symbolism from beginning to end; in fact, an allegory's symbolism must be as important as the plot itself.

Some notable allegories include Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", Dante's "Divine Comedy", Clemence Housman's story "The Werewolf" (a personal favorite of mine), and most of the Bible.
There is no mode of contemplation
When the sun is hot for us;

Whether gusts course through
Or the wielding of potent waters

Importune the physical attentions
That we so frequently abide,

Energetic communions as this
Are categorically without interruption;

Illumination comes by brute force
And by rainbow;

There is one light, and position
Is the variable in contemplation --

If one is contemplating
At all
, in the sun.

Al"le*go*ry (#), n.; pl. Allegories (#). [L. allegoria, Gr. , description of one thing under the image of another; other + to speak in the assembly, harangue, place of assembly, fr. to assemble: cf. F. all'egorie.]

1.

A figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances. The real subject is thus kept out of view, and we are left to collect the intentions of the writer or speaker by the resemblance of the secondary to the primary subject.

2.

Anything which represents by suggestive resemblance; an emblem.

3. Paint. & Sculpt.

A figure representation which has a meaning beyond notion directly conveyed by the object painted or sculptured.

Syn. -- Metaphor; fable. -- Allegory, Parable. "An allegory differs both from fable and parable, in that the properties of persons are fictitiously represented as attached to things, to which they are as it were transferred. . . . A figure of Peace and Victory crowning some historical personage is an allegory. "I am the Vine, ye are the branches" [John xv. 1-6] is a spoken allegory. In the parable there is no transference of properties. The parable of the sower [Matt. xiii. 3-23] represents all things as according to their proper nature. In the allegory quoted above the properties of the vine and the relation of the branches are transferred to the person of Christ and His apostles and disciples."

C. J. Smith.

An allegory is a prolonged metaphor. Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and Spenser's "Faerie Queene" are celebrated examples of the allegory.

 

© Webster 1913.

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