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ALLEGORY, pronounced AL uh gawr ee, is a story with more than one meaning. Most

allegories have moral or religious meanings. Famous allegories include the

fables attributed to Aesop, an ancient Greek writer. Aesop's fables seem to

describe the adventures of animals and human beings. But the author actually

wanted to teach his readers something about human nature.

One of Aesop's best-known fables is "The Fox and the Grapes." On its surface,

or its literal level of meaning, the story tells of a fox who wants a bunch of

grapes hanging above his head. The fox tries desperately to reach the grapes

but cannot. He finally gives up, saying that the grapes are probably sour

anyway. The allegorical meaning of this story is that people may pretend the

things they cannot have are not worth having.

Allegories had their greatest popularity during medieval and Renaissance times

in Europe. The Divine Comedy, written by the Italian author Dante Alighieri in

the early 1300's, literally tells of a man's journey to heaven through hell and

purgatory. Allegorically, the poem describes a Christian soul rising from a

state of sin to a state of blessedness. Other allegories include the parables

of Jesus, and The Faerie Queene, written by the English poet Edmund Spenser in

the late 1500's.

Allegories lost popularity in Europe after about 1600, but some, such as

Pilgrim's Progress (1678, 1684) gained recognition in later times. Allegory

also exists in other ways. Many novels include allegorical suggestions of an

additional level of meaning. Examples include Moby-Dick (1851), a whaling

adventure that raises issues of human struggle and fate in a mysterious universe,

and Lord of the Flies (1954), a story about shipwrecked boys that examines the

persistence of evil.

Contributor: Paul Strohm

Related Articles in Information Finder include:

Aesop's Fables Golding, SirMorality Play

Bunyan, John William Parable

Divine Comedy Melville, Romance

Fable Herman Spenser, Edmund

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