To what extent is symbolism a significant feature of novels? Respond to this question with close reference to a novel (or novels) you have studied.
Symbolism is when an object represents something other than itself, often of a more abstract nature. Symbolism creates quality aspects that make literature more meaningful. Symbolism is often recognised as an important part of an extended text used to enhance a theme or idea of a story to a deeper level. This is why symbolism is a significant feature of a novel. An example of this is in the novel The Poisonwood Bible written by Barbara Kingslover. The story is set in 1959 and follows an obsessive Baptist minister named Nathan Price who drags his wife (Orleanna) and four daughters, (Adah, Rachel, Ruth-May and Leah) deep into the heart of the Congo on a mission to save the “unenlightened” people of Africa. The five women narrate the novel. From the beginning, the attitudes of the five women cover a wide spectrum of events and happening of their time in the Congo. There are many examples of symbolism in The Poisonwood Bible including the demonstration garden, Methuslelah and the Poisonwood tree itself.
Methuselah is the pet parrot of Brother Fowles, the previous missionary, which was left behind. This parrot acquires symbolic value. Biblically, the name “Methuselah” comes from the Hebrew Bible. It is the name of the oldest living person who, according to myth, lived close to 969 years. The parrot represents Africa and its people. Using the name Methuselah to this image, Kingslover is stating that the African culture is far more ancient than the arriving colonizers, and inferring they should respect the culture of the Congo, just as the oldest man in the bible was respected. However expanded, the parrot is also symbolic for the doomed Republic of Congo in that Methuselah is caged much like the Congo is oppressed by Belgium. Both gain independence but are not ready to become self-sufficient and perish as a result....
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