What is Allegory?
I would like to begin a series about allegory. The discussion recently came on church historian Dr, Michael Haykin’s blog, Historia Ecclesiastica, where he confessed to having not read Pilgrim’s Progress because of a dislike for allegory. I have always been partial to allegory, so I thought it would be fitting to write a bit about it in a seven part series entitled, "Why the best Allegory is Christian Allegory."
Allegory comes from the Greek word “allegoria” which translates as “speaking otherwise.” This concenpt is at the heart of what an allegory is. Essentially, an allegory is a piece of writing (poetry or prose) in which characters, events, and ideas in the piece represent something else on a symbolic level. The symbolism is systematic, functioning like an extended metaphor. In addition, an allegory usually conveys a moral lesson to its readers.
Among the most famous Christian allegories are such works as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Spencer’s Faerie Queene. During the English Medieval and early Renaissance, allegory was a very popular moral and religious didactic form of literature. But allegory is not an exclusively Christian form of literature. The Greeks also occasionally wrote allegory. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is another famous allegory, as well as Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The latter two works expressing decidedly political perspectives.
Next blog: "How does Allegory Work?"