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Symbolism: Why dont they get it?



I have 2 groups of gifted fifth graders learn about "symbolism" in writing. One group "got it;" the other group no matter what I tried could wrap their mind around it. They were much more literal than I ever expected a group of gifted students to be.

Any advice?


Senior Member

Being one who never got symbolism (or even saw a use for it), I think you answered your own question... they're very literal. I understood what it was... if I forced myself I could sometimes find an example somewhere... but, being very literal as I am... I saw no purpose in it. I think this is the same reason I hate allegories... just call it what it is and stop looking for something else to symbolize it, was pretty much my attitude...

I think with the other group you're going to have to just get them to understand the concept, but they're most likely not going to ever see the purpose in using it.. I didn't (still don't.. :))


New Member
I was going to say the same thing...

My students this year are very literal. They want people to just say what they mean instead of being "all flowery".


Senior Member
Sorry, but I completely

think that symbolism is a VERY important part of good literature. As someone who writes, reads, and studies literary fiction, I can assure you that symbolism is deliberate and intended and yes, authors (even Mark Twain) want, NEED you to see it. If we don't teach kids how to see abstraction (and little is more abstract than that, other than math, perhaps) then they miss HUGE parts of great novels and films.

Having said that, this is a developmental skill and kids, even the gifted ones, are ready for it at different times.

Symbolism is such a part of art, film, and literature. We do our kids a great disservice if we denigrate a large part of what makes these things beautiful and meaningful. By teaching metaphor/symbolism, we really open up literature for our kids.


Senior Member
I didn't say they don't need to learn it...

... just that some people are never going to care about it. I agree that it's important for them to learn and understand, but that doesn't mean they have to enjoy it. It doesn't mean that as adults, they have to go around looking for the symbolism in every book the read or movie they see.. sometimes they can just enjoy it at the surface level. I had a friend who used to ruin every movie we saw because after every single movie we had to "discuss what we got from it..." WHY?? Can't I just enjoy it for the sake of enjoyment.. I mean, there's really not that much I "got" from Talledega Nights, but it was pretty funny!

Most people who are highly literal are never going to be the types who read "great literature" or see "great films" - however, even if they do, they can still enjoy it without "getting it." IMHO