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Allegory

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Allegory

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

An allegory is the sustained and extended use of a metaphor across a whole sentence, paragraph or entire discourse or narrative.

Example

I feel like a dog today. I rolled out of my basket and munched on some biscuit-like cereal. Scratching as I got on the train, I sniffed a passing female. Aruooo!! Down boy! ...

Orwell's 'Animal Farm' is an allegorical work about society in general and Soviet communism in particular.

Discussion

An allegory takes the idea of a metaphor, where one thing is taken to represent another, and stretches it out into a longer context than a metaphor might normally be used. An allegory also appeals to the imagination more than a metaphor, which tends to have a more rational basis.

Short 'teaching' stories, such as fables and parables, are often allegorical, as this alternative form softens the lecturing tone of a direct presentation. Allegories are likewise useful in business presentations keeping them interesting whilst also making the message more palatable.

Longer stories may also be allegories. Criticism of politics, religion and other subjects that are likely to cause the writer problems can be written in a suitably cloaked form. In some ways all stories can be viewed as allegories as they are representations of their authors' inner thoughts.

It is easy to over-do an allegory, wringing out every last drop until the towel of meaning is twisted and torn. It is better to select the metaphor carefully, then use it appropriately, lightly and persistently.

Allegory comes from the Greek 'allos' meaning 'other' and 'agora' or 'place of assembly'. 'Agoreuein' means ‘to speak in the assembly’. Its origin is hence very much in public speaking and oratory.

Classification: Substitution, Meaning

See also

Metaphor, Extended metaphor

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