Short Story Writing Response

Using the stories The Ledge, The Stone Boy and The Masque of Red Death discuss how the symbolism in each story helps the reader to comprehend the underlying theme of the story.

Symbolism is the idea that things represent other things. What we mean by that is that we can look at something — let’s say, the color red — and conclude that it represents not the color red itself but something beyond it: for example, passion, or love, or devotion. Or maybe the opposite: infidelity. The color red can also represent blood. It can also mean stop ­— when you approach a traffic light. It can symbolize communism. In other words, it can mean anything you want it to mean. In other words, it means everything. Or: it means nothing, because if you can assign any kind of symbolic interpretation to it, it has no internal value, no fixed or unchanging or universal meaning. It has no special quality that designates it as a symbol of one particular thing.

So the questions is: are there universal symbols that communicate agreed-upon concepts? We could talk, for example, about white a symbol of purity or innocence or life. But again, that would be a very superficial reading of literature, because white could also signify paleness, bloodlessness, lifelessness — and death. So once again, if white can signify one thing and its opposite — life and death — what kind of symbol is it?

A more sophisticated way of approaching symbolism would be to say that things have symbolic qualities only in certain contexts — and sometimes they do not symbolize anything at all.