Writing 101: What Is Symbolism? Symbolism Definition and Examples in Literature

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 30, 2021 • 5 min read

An object, concept, or word does not have to be limited to a single meaning. When you see red roses growing in a garden, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think literally about the rose—about its petals, stem, and thorns, or even about its stamen and pistil as a botanist might. But perhaps your mind goes elsewhere and starts thinking about topics like romance, courtship, and Valentine’s Day. Why would you do this? A rose is simply a plant growing in the dirt. The reason, of course, is that over the course of many generations, a rose’s symbolic meaning has evolved to include amorous concepts.