What is one of the most popular symbols in classic literature?
Incidentally it is not a storm or a ray of sun; rather it is a large white whale, specifically Moby Dick, the titular star of Moby-Dick. Notice the emphasis on white? That’s because Herman Melville refers to the color almost thirty times in one chapter of his novel, meaning it to be the emptiness of all things–without color things lack substance…gravitas.
Let’s grab another symbol here–oh, by the way, this is courtesy of the chapter It’s My Symbol and I’ll Cry If I Want To. Here’s a good one: the vases in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They are brought by Quasimodo to the towers of Notre Dame, one cracked and the other in unscathed; symbolic, of course, of the perception of beauty between Esmeralda and Quasimodo.
Many stories feature symbolism. Their presence better personifies a work and gives off a smoking literary attractiveness. Take To Kill A Mockingbird, the first book ever written by Harper Lee, and yet forty or so years later the story is still kicking because it has such purposeful symbols and themes in so tiny a novel. Then there is The Outsiders, with memorable bits of innocence gained and lost keeping it afloat from generation to generation.
Harry Potter has a symbol on his forehead!
Achilles has a symbol in his ankle!
Captain Ahab is wearing a symbol!
Symbols–here to stay forever long!
Now, let’s traipse over to irony…
Irony is the leftover crumble of crust on a sandwich, says Foster in Is He Serious? And Other Ironies, “…when what should happen doesn’t…”He cites examples from Hemingway and Burgess; and defines irony as simply…the unexpected.
Such cases are at work in the stories of Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of our best modern satires. From the Earth blowing up to the meaning of all life answered–it is 42–this is a comedic barnyard of irony; although in a first reading it is difficult to notice all uses of irony but to the trained reader.
Also read The Princess Bride for an irony stuffed plot…or watch the movie; either way an enjoyable experience and one you’ll be laughing equally hard at no matter the medium.