The definition of allegory is that it is a literary device that uses symbolism to express a hidden meaning or moral lesson. It is a form of extended metaphor in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract ideas or concepts. In English literature, allegory has been used to convey political, social, and religious ideas in a subtle and powerful way.
Allegory in The Canterbury Tales
The Pardoner’s Tale: This tale is an allegory of the dangers of greed and materialism. The three rioters represent the deadly sins of gluttony, drunkenness, and gambling. Their pursuit of treasure ultimately leads to their downfall.
The Nun’s Priest’s Tale: This tale is an allegory of the dangers of flattery and deceit. The fox represents the deceitful and flattering nature of those who seek to manipulate others for their own gain.
The Knight’s Tale: This tale is an allegory of chivalric romance, showing knights, courtly love, and the battle between good and evil. The characters represent various virtues and vices, and the story explores the conflict between love and duty.
Example in Animal Farm
One of the most famous examples of allegory in English literature is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” In this novel, the animals on a farm get rid of their human owner. And create a new society in which all animals are equal. However, over time, the pigs, who took leadership, become corrupt and oppressive, and the farm becomes a dictatorship. The story is an allegory for the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism. Moreover, the pigs represent the Stalinist regime and the other animals represent the working class.
Example in The Pilgrim’s Progress
Another well-known example of allegory in English literature is John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” In this book, the main character, Christian, embarks on a journey to reach the Celestial City, which represents heaven. Along the way, he faces many challenges, such as the Slough of Despond, the Hill of Difficulty, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. These challenges represent the obstacles that people face in their journey through life. However, the book is an allegory for the Christian journey to salvation.
In conclusion, allegory is a significant literary device that has been used in English literature for centuries to convey complex ideas and moral lessons in a subtle and powerful way. “Animal Farm” and “The Pilgrim’s Progress” are two of the most famous examples of allegory in English literature. The former addresses political and social issues, and the latter addresses religious and spiritual issues.