Reading Between the Lines

After years of assorted text study, essays, and other assignments, I have a great deal of experience in interpreting text. The obvious way to benefit from this knowledge is to read the following tutorial, although there are other unexplored ways no one has tried yet, along the lines of kidnapping, extortion, and mind-reading, all of which I would discourage, for my personal health and security. So take the beaten path and read this how-to guide, which gives you the very same information legally and with much less fuss. Very briefly, you'll learn how to discover both universal and cultural symbolism in just three easy steps!


First, read the text, possibly several times. At the end of these readings, you should understand all the text's vocabulary, and have a clear idea of character, plot, description, setting, and point of view. Afterwards, go back through the text taking notes on important events, actions, objects, and repeated words. Often, objects which seem completely out of context, like an ashtray in a Wild West story, are key symbols. An example of an action on the list could be the meeting of two minor characters on a beach, as seen in the image below.


Once you've done step 1, look over your list for universal symbolism. Universal symbolism is symbolism common to all human beings, which can be understood regardless of culture or upbringing. The weather is usually an example of this, as weather systems are relatively widespread around the world. Rain, therefore, could symbolize renewal, and sunlight could represent happiness and love. Other universal symbols are weapons and other tools.


You should not be surprised to find that not all the items on your list are covered by applying universal symbolism. Cultural symbolism can help you with the rest. This is the collection of symbols based on culture and geographical setting. Religious symbols can quite often fit into this category. For example, the two beach goers meeting, shown above, could indicate love in the air. However, based on setting, this is not the only interpretation. In many parts of the Islamic world, this could mean something very different. And always remember that not everything must be a symbol. Have fun!

The sites from which I got the images can be reached by clicking on their respective images..