The UVic Writer's Guide

 


Allegory


An allegory is a narrative which has both a literal meaning and a representative one. Allegory may be sustained throughout a work (as in the medieval morality play) or comprise an episode in literature of any genre. There are two main types of allegory:
  1. the historical and political variety, in which historical persons and events are referred to;
  2. the allegory of ideas, in which characters personify abstract concepts and the story has a didactic purpose.

George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) is a modern example of the first type, describing the development of Russian communism in terms of a revolt by farm animals.

The allegory of ideas is particularly common in medieval literature, as in Dante's Divine Comedy (1307-21), in which Dante the pilgrim represents a common person seeking salvation, both helped and hindered by his reliance upon Reason (in the person of Virgil) rather than Faith. Fables and parables are types of allegory. (See irony.)


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 14,, 1995