We have all been in an English lesson where the teacher is trying to tech us the deeper meanings of what the author meant. Writing has helped people voice their concerns and issues with society for centuries. Personal perspectives on war, regime change, atrocities and hopeful movements. Animal Farm was one of the first allegorical books I remember analysing, before that I simply read for the enjoyment of it. I still do, but I almost didn’t.
In study, being analytical of works is key to being able to convey that you understand the underpinnings of the story, the themes. However, in my own experience, having an analytical eye almost ruined reading for me. I could not pick up a book without looking for the authors deeper meanings, without deconstructing sentences and word choice, narrative voices and points of view. It ruined the immersion of the story, which to me is paramount. It can be argued that these works are for the purpose of conveying a very specific message, that is after all what allegory is for. I do feel though that we sometimes confuse allegory with applicability.
The distinction between allegory and applicability can sometimes be a muddied one. Animal Farm is an allegorical novella about the Russian Revolution of 1917, C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books are another example of allegory in fiction and yet Tolkien’s work, by his own admission, is not. He did not see The Lord of the Rings as an allegorical work for war and the industry it creates. It would however be absurd to say such things did not colour his work.
The distinction between allegory and applicability is that allegory is usually a one for one substitution. Allegory is a device employed by the author to further their message and point. Applicability however is something that the reader brings with them when they read. Applicability is an extension of the readers own experiences and knowledge. It is finding something within the work that we can connect with, perhaps something we have had experience with.
Some stories are just that. Stories. No hidden meanings, no agenda or message to be discovered. Personally when I write, if I say it was cold, its because it was cold. There is no deeper meaning attached that, the cold is not symbolism for depression or loneliness. It’s just cold. I have no interest in trying to foist upon the reader a hidden agenda, but my work is coloured by the world around me and my own experiences. I am only interested in trying to create great stories. If you find something in them that resonates with you, that is fantastic, but they are simply stories.