Created By: batgirl1 on January 7, 2013 Last Edited By: batgirl1 on January 21, 2013
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Allegory

A Story That's Intended to be a Metaphor for Something Else.

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An allegory is a work that's designed to be a metaphor for something else. Just about every character is meant to be a representation of some group or concept, and their interactions in the work are meant to convey ideas about how these groups/concepts affect each other in real life. The story may say "Alice and Bob had tea together", but in actuality, Alice represents Capitalism, Bob represents Communism, and the "tea" is actually a meeting of the UN. Expect Rule of Symbolism to come into play in these stories.

Perhaps the most famous example is Pilgrim's Progress, a Christian allegory in which the protagonist (named Christian) leaves his old life to go on a journey to the Celestial City, overcoming many obstacles along the way. Not all allegories are this Anvilicious, however. Some are very subtle, to the point where you don't even realize the story is an allegory until someone points it out to you. This is why so many readers get to thinking that Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory.

World of Symbolism is a Sub-Trope in which the Allegory only makes sense on the metaphorical level and not the literal one.

Allegory Adventure is a Sub-Trope in which the plot is an allegory for another work of fiction.

Compare Does This Remind You of Anything?.

Contrast Applicability, which is when a story has meanings beyond with the author intended. Likewise, Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory is when the reader sees meanings that aren't really there. See Also Metaphorgotten, when the story (or reader) loses track of what it was talking about.

Examples

Comic Books
  • Tales Of The Black Freighter, the Story Within A Story in Watchmen: a tragic little pirate story about a man who gets so paranoid about pirates attacking his home town, that he goes crazy and ends up killing everyone himself, interesting in its own right, and then you realize that It's a metaphor for the villain's plan to "save the world" by murdering thousands, and further hints that his plan is totally in vain.

Film
  • The 1954 film Gojira was made as an allegory about the horrors of the atomic bomb.
  • Monsters2010 as an allegory for the U.S. - Mexican border regime.

Literature
  • Animal Farm - animals oust the human farmer and take over the running of the farm, as an allegory for the rise and corruption of Communism in the USSR.
  • Battle Royale is considered an allegory about humans ( Not just teens) and what they're willing to do in order to survive.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia - for Christianity (according to Word of God, Aslan literally is Jesus), and the battle against evil.
    • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe re-enacts the crucifixion story with Jadis the White Witch as Satan, Aslan as Jesus (of course), and Edmund as the unsaved sinner in need of redemption. Lucy and Susan also fill in for the Marys who attend Christ's death and burial.
    • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace's transformation back from a dragon, and subsequent reform of character, is an allegory for the conversion of St. Paul.
    • The Last Battle is an almost 1:1 retelling of the Second Coming, complete with a false Aslan and his "prophet", a massive war, and everyone going to heaven at the end.
  • Hinds Feet On High Places - for the process of converting to Christianity
  • Pilgrim's Progress - for the process of converting to Christianity
  • Lord of the Flies for war and its causes, the island acting as a microcosm for the World at the time.

Religion and Mythology
  • Christ's parables in The Bible were this. He himself even provides the literal interpretation of the Parable of the Sower.
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • January 8, 2013
    CharacterInWhite
    Wouldn't entries to this trope at least require a brief explanation of what the allegory is?
  • January 8, 2013
    Tomodachi
    Animal Farm is a allegory for Stalin reign... right?
  • January 9, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^ and Lenin, and how communism won't work because people are corrupt, as well as just simply communism in general.
  • January 9, 2013
    jatay3
    I think we do have it somewhere.
  • January 9, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    I'm not sure of that. There's a whole genre of this (possibly making it a section rather than a trope). Can't think of any offhand though.
  • January 10, 2013
    peccantis
    Please provide an actual Laconic.
  • January 10, 2013
    lakingsif
    Lord Of The Flies for causes of war and, apparently, interpretations of Biblical stories to convey that meaning innocently and simply.
  • January 11, 2013
    robinjohnson
    ^^^^^ Orwell was a card-carrying socialist and wrote later that he intended to make the point that if the animals had put their foot down when the pigs first started to show their corruption (when they took away the milk and apples), things would have gone better. It's an allegory for the Russian revolution and its later corruption, and not a tract against socialism or communism in general.
  • January 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:
  • January 13, 2013
    fluffything
    • The 1954 film Gojira was made as an allegory about the horrors of the atomic bomb.
  • January 13, 2013
    justanid
    Allegory Adventure is a sub-trope.
  • January 14, 2013
    peccantis
    So, a story-length Extended Metaphor? <- ugh I know we have this
  • January 14, 2013
    robinjohnson
    At the moment the entries just say what the allegory is for - I think they should also say a bit about what is being used as the allegory, e.g.:

    • Animal Farm - animals oust the human farmer and take over the running of the farm, as an allegory for the rise and corruption of Communism in the USSR.
  • January 18, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^Then
  • January 18, 2013
    MokonaZero
    Battle Royale is considered an allegory about humans ( Not just teens) and what they're willing to do in order to survive.
  • January 19, 2013
    batgirl1
    So...is it ready to launch?
  • January 19, 2013
    Desertopa
    Another example from the Chronicles of Narnia.

    • In The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, Eustace's transformation back from a dragon, and subsequent reform of character, is an allegory for the conversion of St. Paul.

    Pretty much the whole series is some manner of Christian allegory. It might be easier to just lump the whole series together as one big example. I'd pick out more specifics, but I haven't read the series since I was twelve (the realization that the whole series was one big allegory pretty much spoiled it for me.)

    Edit: it seems that Voyage of the Dawn Treader is namespaced under Main, not Literature.
  • January 20, 2013
    justanid
    ^^ 5 hats to launch, usually. +1 from me, btw.
  • January 20, 2013
    Desertopa
    I've added the last hat.

    This should go on the Meta Concepts index. Any other indexes it fits on?
  • January 21, 2013
    troacctid
  • January 21, 2013
    Frank75
    Glad to see this becoming a trope.
  • January 21, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Two suggestions from me, up for discussion though (I don't know if it fits here):

    • District9 as an allegory for the South African apartheid system's practice of forcibly putting large parts of the black population into ghettos.
    • Monsters2010 as an allegory for the U.S. - Mexican border regime.
  • January 21, 2013
    Desertopa
    District9 is certainly inspired by and evocative of apartheid, but I'm not sure it's fair to call it an allegory for apartheid. The plot hinges on things that don't appear to have correspondences in the apartheid metaphor, and in general, I'd say that if the real event or concept appears or is referenced directly in a work, the work probably isn't an allegory for that thing. For instance, if a film takes place in South Africa, involves the strict legal separation of populations, with one being a subordinate underclass, and people point out in-movie that this is similar to apartheid, the movie isn't an allegory for apartheid. The things people allegorize generally aren't self referential.

    That doesn't mean District 9 isn't allegorical though. I think it's meant more as an allegory for current race relations in South Africa (which are referential of apartheid, since people will look around and say "the laws are different and the regime is different, but have things really changed?")

    I've never seen Monsters2010, so I can't comment on that one.

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