May I ask what in the heck is so wrong with allegory? I feel like it’s a bad word nowadays in the publishing world. Oh, no! There’s an allegory! Keep away!
I’ve known for some time that there’s a certain prejudice against allegory. Apparently, writers are not allowed to teach any morals or lessons when writing. They’re only supposed to write to tell a story.
While I agree that storytelling, alone, should be the basis for writing, I have absolutely no problem with allegory. I think that hidden meanings and subtexts and morals should be explored. Not trodden on like it was a piece of trash.
Am I too upset about this? Probably. But I’ll warn you right now, my writing is allegorical. It almost always has a hidden meaning or is metaphorical or teaches a lesson.
Part of what got me on this rant is watching this documentary about J.R.R. Tolkien. For those of you who’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know he’s one of my favorite authors, not just for the stories he wrote, but in how influential he’s been for me as a writer.
So when one of his sons and a couple professors began talking about how Tolkien intended no allegory in his writings, and then proceeded to speak as if allegory was a terrible thing, I got a little het up.
Tolkien speaks of allegory as if the author is trying to force his opinions down your throat. Really? I didn’t know allegory could be so… violent. Are writers, if they use allegory, attempting to dominate you by their own opinions? Aren’t people able enough to make their own choices (whether or not they agree with the author’s intentions)?
I think every book has allegory of some kind. Intentional or not. Even in my own writings, I see allegory where I never intended it to be.
I understand Tolkien’s opinion about allegory, but I can’t say I agree with his rather pessimistic view on it.
What do you think? Am I wrong? Are you pro- or anti-allegory? Do enjoy reading or writing allegory, or do you avoid it like the plague? I’m hoping for a good debate on this one.
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“The two things that came out clearly were the sense of reality in the background and the mythical value: the essence of myth being that it should have no taint of allegory to the maker and yet should suggestincipient allegories to the reader.
[C.S. Lewis writes to J.R.R. Tolkien on December 7, 1929]”
― C.S. Lewis
“No story can be devised by the wit of man which cannot be interpreted allegorically by the wit of some other man.”
― C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature