Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
Symbolism in Literature
When you think of anthropomorphism, the first thought that might come to mind is children's literature. Anthropomorphism is a form of personification in which objects or animals are given human abilities, such as walking and talking. While it is true that anthropomorphism is used frequently to grab a child's attention in children's stories, it is also used in some books with very adult themes as a form of symbolism. Symbolism occurs when a thing is used to represent an idea in literature. Let's look at some examples of anthropomorphism is popular literature.
One of the most beloved children's stories is Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. Charlotte's Web is the story of anthropomorphic farm animals with strong themes about the cycle of life and friendship. Charlotte A. Cavatica is a spider that becomes friends with Wilbur, a pig that could have faced slaughter if it were not for Charlotte's determination to save him. Templeton is an offensive, self-absorbed rat, that has to be enticed to help others. Although they are animals, the characters are relatable because of their anthropomorphic abilities.
Not all farm animal stories are for children. George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm used this anthropomorphic novelette to offer his opinion on the highly controversial political climate of the Russian Revolution. Old Major is a pig that represents both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Old Major inspires the animals to overthrow their owner, Mr. Jones, and to live a communal life on the farm. However, after he dies, the pigs that take his place show that man's desire for power and wealth will always create a division in class. Not just the pigs are anthropomorphic. Boxer, a strong work horse represents the working class of the Soviet Union that always followed their leader, believing they would reap the benefits that never came. Benjamin, the donkey, doesn't believe in communism, but keeps his mouth shut about it. Mollie, the white mare, represents the middle class who just wants her luxuries and doesn't care about politics. By using anthropomorphism, George Orwell is able to deliver a satirical message to Stalin that would not have been published using a more direct approach.
Like Animal Farm, Watership Down by Richard Adams is an allegory with political and religious undertones. An allegory is a story that is used as a symbol for a bigger idea. Watership Down is the story of a group of rabbits that decide to leave their habitat after Fiver, the rabbit with psychic abilities, senses they are in danger. His brother, Hazel recruits some followers and leads the group in their search for a new home. Along the way, they encounter various struggles and cultures and even have to fight off foreign invaders. Anthropomorphism in this novel is used to explore various political settings, ultimately favoring democracy.
Anthropomorphism is used by authors of many different types of books for a variety of reasons. In children's books such as Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, anthropomorphism is often used as an attention-getter or to teach children about character. When anthropomorphism is used in adult books, it is usually some type of symbol. Allegories are stories that use an entire story as a symbol that represents a bigger idea. Books such as Animal Farm by George Orwell and Watership Down by Richard Adams are allegories. Animal Farm is very specifically aimed at Stalinist Communism during the Russian Revolution. Each character represents some type of political figure. Watership Down uses anthropomorphism to follow a band of rabbits in a search for a home during which they encounter different types of governments, but ultimately promoting democracy.
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