How to Write a Symbolism Essay: The Great Gatsby, The Lottery, & Other Examples

Symbolism essay title picture.

In this article, we will discuss the keys to a good symbolism essay. You should know many nuances to master this type of writing.

Symbolism essay isn’t the same as other types of essays. Let’s say you’re writing The Yellow Wallpaper symbolism essay. Under no circumstances should you retell the whole plot of the story.

So, we are here to help you become a symbolism essay professional.

Let’s get down to it!

🤿 Symbolism Essay – Writing Guide

It’s time for us to look into the main aspects of the essay on symbolism.

First, we will try to define it. After that, check for information about the most common symbols in literature.

What Is an Essay on Symbolism?

A symbol is an object, or phenomena, or anything else, that has some additional notions behind it. In literature, the setting, an object, or an image can symbolize something.

A symbol in literature is a device for delivering multiple meanings and ideas through an image, concept, or object. That means an object in question has other layers of meaning beyond the literal one.

For instance, specific colors may be associated with certain ideas. What comes to your mind at the thought of black color? Probably, death, or grief, or tragedy. So, the author uses this color to express a gruesome atmosphere.

This is how symbolism works.

Common Symbols in Literature

There’s an endless number of symbols in literature, and they all are different. However, most authors use particular types of symbols: objects, events, and characters. We will try to interpret them with you.

We suggest considering some examples of symbolism in literature.

Symbols in literature.


Symbolic objects are everything that exists in the material world. For example, things, their parts, animals and birds, plants. In other words, it is anything you can potentially touch.

An American poet Sara Teasdale uses a flower as a symbol of the wisdom of youth in her poem Wild Asters. In the lines,

In the spring I asked the daisies
If his words were true,
And the clever, clear-eyed daisies
Always knew.

Teasdale chooses symbolism through personification. The daisies serve as a symbol for youth wisdom and can give answers.


Symbolism can also be developed through characters representing abstract ideas and delivering a solid association. Animals count, too, if they play a significant role in a plot. Let’s not exclude spirits, ghosts, and other mythical creatures because they are often common symbols in literature.

  • Shakespeare was intensely into symbols. For example, in Hamlet, one can find a lot of them. If you read the play, you must remember two gravediggers. One of whom was a reflecting man with philosophical views. His appearance and philosophical attitude aren’t accidental. The gravedigger signified the idea of all people being equal before the face of death.
  • In the same play, the ghost of Hamlet’s father serves a significant symbolic role. Metaphorically, his presence foreshadows the upcoming tragic events for Claudius, the Queen, and Denmark in general. The whole concept of a dead man’s image can give chills. That’s why this image is powerful enough to create an ominous atmosphere.


Authors can use dramatic changes and twists to symbolize a new phase. One can identify symbolic meanings from how the plot unfolds and what events occur. This is an excellent way to deliver the idea of a character’s inner changes. Let’s look into examples closer.

  • In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, the weather changes play a significant role. Whenever a storm was about to come, some tragic events took place. Lousy weather symbolized growing tension and negativity that later broke into a scandal or drama. Such a literary device as foreshadowing is used here and expressed to readers through symbolism.
  • John Fowls also used elements of symbolism in his books. His famous novel The Magnus has numerous symbols and metaphors. For instance, Alison staged her suicide and later showed up in front of Nicholas. Her fake suicide symbolized the death of her old self and further rebirth. She wanted to do everything for Nicholas but was weak. Once she appears again, we see a completely new person – solid and decisive.

Other Symbols

Basically, you can refer anything to this class of symbols. We’ll be talking about those that don’t fit into the previous groups. There are plenty of them: various details of other characters, objects, motifs—for example, colors, sounds, or composition.

  • If you write color symbolism in The Great Gatsby essay, you won’t have any problems. The novel is drenched in color symbols. Here’s proof: Fitzgerald uses white to symbolize innocence and purity. Yellow color foreshadows a tragedy: Gatsby walked under yellowing trees right before being killed.
  • Even the whole story can symbolize something. Take Animal Farm by George Orwell. The animal farm illustrates the savage ruling regimes, such as fascist and Soviet Russian. The author carried the allegory through the whole novel.

How to Write a Symbolism Essay – Analysis


We want to provide you with a guideline on symbolism essay writing:

🔎 Identify the object for analysis. Explain why you chose this particular symbol and back up its significance. Make sure there is some meaning behind that. For example, look up analytical articles about the selected work.
📍 Point out where the author used this symbol. In other words, provide some details. At this point, don’t go deep into retelling – you don’t need it. Instead, include some quotations, describe the context, etc.
📖 Analyze the symbol. In other words, provide some details. At this point, don’t go deep into retelling – you don’t need it. Instead, include some quotations, describe the context, etc.
🧿 Consider the symbol outside the book’s framework. Often, a symbol used by an author has a meaning beyond the text. Try to look for the representations in other literary works or real life.
📝 Make a conclusion. Finally, you need to evaluate the significance of a symbol in the text. Try to look at the plot on the whole and distinguish the role played by the symbols you’ve analyzed.

📐 Symbolism Essay Outline

In this part, we will discuss a symbolism essay outline. It consists of an introduction, body, and conclusion, like any other academic paper. Read about the importance and different ways to outline an essay in our article about outline making.

Let’s go through a symbolism essay outline.

Symbolism Essay Introduction

You can choose anything for the symbolism analysis. Make sure your readers are perfectly aware of your choice too. Introduce them to the subject. Speak on it generally so that the audience can get the idea of a symbol. In the end, explain why you chose this particular topic for the symbolism essay.

Symbolism Essay Body

Now, it’s time to specify the symbol you chose. Elaborate on it: what is written in the book? What general sense this symbol has beyond literature? Tell about your associations – what does this symbol represent for you? Besides, discuss why it’s essential to analyze it in an essay on symbolism.

Remember to back up your opinion with the facts from an original text.

Symbolism Essay Conclusion

Wrap up your essay by writing a consistent concluding paragraph. You can do it by bringing up all the points mentioned in the body. Once again, show that the symbol is significant to talk about. Finally, sum up all the main ideas. Use our free summary generator to develop a good resume of your key thoughts.

Now you know how to write a symbolism essay but let’s look at some examples first.

The picture describes a brief symbolism essay outline.

📚 Symbolism Essay Topics

Looking for a good topic for your symbolism essay? In this section, you will find some awesome ideas for your paper.

  1. The Christmas tree as a symbol in Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House.”
  2. The symbols of life and death in the poem by Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
  3. “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty: Analysis of symbols.
  4. The symbolic meaning of fire in the Fahrenheit 451 novel by Ray Bradbury.
  5. The symbols of success and failure in the Death of a Salesman play by Arthur Miller.
  6. How symbols help reveal characters in “Doll’s House” by Ibsen.
  7. What is the symbolic meaning of a streetcar in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams?
  8. “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin: The symbolism of darkness.
  9. The scarlet letter as the most powerful symbol in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  10. Franz Kafka and “The Metamorphosis”: The symbols of humanity.
  11. “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain: The symbolism of different settings.
  12. The Epic of Gilgamesh: Religious symbols.
  13. The symbolic meaning of money in “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat.
  14. Major symbols in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
  15. Symbols related to mental illness in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
  16. The symbolism of bathing suits in “A&P” by John Updike.
  17. Color symbolism in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
  18. White elephants as a symbol of an unwanted child in “Hills Like White Elephants” by Hemingway.
  19. The symbolism of a handkerchief in “Othello” by William Shakespeare.
  20. The symbolic meaning of schools in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
  21. Aunt Martha as a symbol of womanhood in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Jacobs.
  22. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: The symbolic meaning of the book’s title.
  23. The symbolic nature of food in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.
  24. Emily’s house as a symbol in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.
  25. The symbolic meaning of the veil in “The Souls of Black Folk” by Du Bois.
  26. What symbols reflect good and evil in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe?
  27. The symbolism of the bridge in A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.
  28. The symbolic meaning of the title of the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
  29. How is materialism symbolically reflected in Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer?
  30. Yorick’s skull as a symbol of equality in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
  31. The symbolism of the title in Fences by August Wilson.
  32. The symbols of racial and gender discrimination in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

🎨 Symbolism Essay Examples

You’ve had a perfect idea of the symbolism essay outline. We’ve also provided you with common symbols in literature. And gave some tips on how to conduct the symbolism analysis.

Check symbolism essay samples we’ve found in a fantastic Free Essay Examples Database.

The Yellow Wallpaper Symbolism Essay

The first book on our list is The Yellow Wallpaper. It’s a great piece of American writing by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The novel is considered a significant literary work of the early feminism period. The book’s themes are profound and thought-provoking: gender roles, self-expression issues, and others.

Pay attention to the meaning of the wallpaper in the story. Its design, color, and the moment when it appeared in the text. Read this Yellow Wallpaper Symbolism Essay and find out which senses the author put behind the objects.

The Great Gatsby Symbolism Essay

One of the most popular novels written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald is famous for its symbolism. Jazz Age, New York, Long Island – today, all these things are the symbols themselves. However, the story has settings worth reading and speaking of.

This Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Essay is worth your attention. Discover the ideas behind the geographical locations and the conflict of East and West. Another great idea is to write an essay about color symbolism in The Great Gatsby.

Lord of the Flies Symbolism Essay

In Lord of the Flies, William Golding actively endows the main characters with recognizable symbolism. Ralph, Piggy, Simon – each character has their meaning and significance. Therefore, there’s much to examine regarding the relationships between them.

Symbolism in Lord of the Flies Essay analyzes Golding’s different levels of symbolic meaning. Read the paper to learn what is hidden behind Piggy’s glasses, the act of pig hunt, and a conch shell.

The Catcher in the Rye Symbolism Essay

Did you know Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is included in the top-100 world-significant books? The story is about an adolescent boy who denies the surrounding social standards. Salinger put into his novel an impressive number of various symbols.

Among other things, the author of this Symbolism in the Catcher in the Rye Essay discusses the symbolism of the novel’s title. We’ve said before that it’s not necessarily an object that is a hidden symbol, right?

The Lottery Symbolism Essay

Despite being a short story, The Lottery has a definite symbolical meaning. One of the major themes is the character of a scapegoat. It is a story about injustice which got a lot of hate initially. In a while, though, it was admitted to be one of the greatest short stories in American literature.

In this Lottery Symbolism Essay, you can read about the tools used by the author. These techniques make the story unique and full of hidden meanings: the black box, the lottery system, its rules, etc.

A Rose for Emily Symbolism Essay

One of the most American writers, William Faulkner, was excellent at showing unflattering sides of American reality. In this short story, he accomplishes this goal perfectly. We’ll give you a hint – the name of the story is a symbol itself.

What role does a house play in this story? A Rose for Emily Symbolism Essay contains the analysis of essential details. For example, how is the appearance of the house related to the personality of the main character – Emily.

Symbolism in 1984 Essay

The famous novel by George Orwell rounds out our list. It takes its place among the most significant dystopias. The first question that usually disturbs readers is, “What does 1984 mean?” This story about a totalitarian regimentation deserves to be analyzed. Here’s a way to do it.

Symbolism in 1984 Essay uncovers several ideas Orwell put behind the plot. Read the essay to figure which political references appear in the novel. It is a good start to writing a paper since there’s a lot to explore about Oceania, and not only.

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