Allegory examples characteristics and uses


The allegory is a literary device is to display a thought or abstract idea through describing people, objects or animals in order to create symbols or give visibility to what does not. A classic example of allegory is the representation of justice through a blindfolded woman and a balance. Allegory characteristics uses and examples

The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines allegory as “a representation that expresses something differently from what is meant to be understood”. It is important to note that allegory is also part of the philosophical and artistic fields, especially painting. This resource has an imaginative component. Allegory characteristics uses and examples

The use of allegory is intended to expose ideas that are not visible, and it does so through images and descriptions that allow the general public to understand. In this sense, allegory is used as a tool to facilitate the learning of what cannot be explained or represented by itself.


The allegory is characterized by the following aspects:

Appeal to the imagination

The allegory is characterized by invoking or requiring the imagination, both for the creative process and for its understanding. This is due to the fact that an abstract idea must be represented by means of symbolic descriptions and the message behind what is being expressed must be interpreted.

Didactic character

An outstanding feature of allegory is its didactic character. That is to say, it is oriented to leave a teaching through the exposition of concepts that have no visibility or denotative feature.

In this sense, the allegory must be carried out so that the content and message are easily understood by all recipients.

Underlying message

The allegory stands out because it exposes an underlying or hidden message behind what it shows. In such a way, this tool of literature and the arts is oriented towards the connotative. This means that it does not objectively show the content, but rather appeals to the imagination, creativity and knowledge of the viewer.

Representation of abstract ideas

Allegory is used to represent or expose abstract ideas and thoughts. That is to say, it allows to manifest those concepts that remain conceived in the mind, that do not have their own physical form and may contain some value.

For this reason the allegory uses animals, objects and people to express intangible concepts such as beauty, justice or the soul.


Allegory generally relies on the use of metaphors to represent abstract concepts. In this sense, allegory can express ideas through different symbols throughout the content. The important thing is that the images that are used are directed to mean the same thing.

Figurative sense

Allegory as a literary device has a figurative meaning. This is due to the fact that objectivity is not present because the ideas come to have a symbolic meaning.

In other words, what is described joins its metaphorical features and the manifestation of everything that is behind what is shown.


Allegory is used in literature, the arts (painting), and philosophy. Now, the application of this resource is oriented towards the explanation of ideas conceived conceptually and that do not have their own visualization that is understandable. Allegory characteristics uses and examples

In this way, allegory is used as a teaching tool. That is to say, it is a teaching resource, because it shows contents that serve to understand daily processes.

The utility of allegory also focuses on the hidden message coming to light through symbols and metaphors that are understood by all types of public.

Examples of allegory

Here are classic examples of allegories in literature, philosophy, and the arts:

– Literature

“I grow a white rose” by José Martí

I grow a white rose
in June like January
for the sincere friend
who gives me his frank hand.

And for the cruel one who rips out
the heart with which I live, I
grow thistle or nettle;
I grow the white rose.

This poem by the Cuban writer José Martí is an allegory of the bond of friendship and the importance of its practice for human coexistence. At the same time, the poet represents resentment and envy with nettles and thistles, and emphasizes that whoever does evil is returned with good (white rose).

– Art

An example of allegory within the painting is “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Jheronimus Bosch, better known as Bosco. This work of art represents the birth and the end of the existence of man subject to his actions, decisions and flirtation with temptation.

– Philosophy

The classic example in the philosophical field is the well-known “Allegory of the cave” by the Greek Plato. This text raises the value of knowledge and reality, conceived through sensitivity and what is beyond human understanding.

– Allegorical phrases

– His hands, like mallets, ended the life of the poor boy.

– The conscience is very heavy and does not let him sleep.

– Of blood and pain were the tears that the man cried.

– That girl gave birth to her, but her father felt the pain.

– Only those who have lived near the sea know the sweet part of salt (Juan Ortiz).

– Kindness and effort are true love.

– Gandhi’s wisdom is water that quenches the thirst of those of us who follow him.

– My forgetfulness is like a second death (Juan Ortiz).

– I walked so much that my soul got tired.

– Better shut up, your words are like sharp knives.

– Be nice, you don’t know the hell that the one on the other side lives.

– Every weight gained counts to keep the stomach full, hunger knows it and that is why it fears them.

– Although time takes me away from the pain of your death, each day that passes I suffer more.

– Her company filled me with sadness and uncertainties, with her next to me I felt like a prisoner, cornered. Allegory characteristics uses and examples

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