How to Write an Allegory Essay

Certain things have multiple meanings.
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While it may appeal to some students to have complete freedom over essay topic and subject matter, many students find comfort in clearly defined essay rules. An allegory is a symbolic representation, and an allegory essay offers students a clear central focus in addition to many freedoms.

1 Allegory Recognition

Whether you’re given a text to analyze or you’re able to choose one, the first step when writing an allegory essay is pinpointing the allegory that will be the central focus of your paper. When dealing with a text with an allegory, most narrative elements, central characters, settings and symbolic objects will be part of an overarching meaning that isn’t directly addressed in the narrative. For example, even though Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible" is a story about the Salem Witch Trials, it is also an allegory for the McCarthy Era of the 1950s.

2 Parallels

At the foundation of a well-constructed allegory are carefully crafted parallels between two separate issues. To properly analyze an allegory it's important to identify these parallels and explain why the parallels are such strong indicators that an allegory exists. Even though "The Crucible" is literally about a witch hunt, the unfair tactics for deciding who is a witch and who isn’t parallel the claims made during the McCarthy Era with little justification other than rumor and hearsay that certain people were communists. The unfair method of designation is the parallel.

3 Moral Issue

A well constructed allegory is focused around a specific moral issue. What the moral issue is and how you know it is a significant part of an allegory essay. Analyze and interpret the fundamental conflict to identify what the text’s allegory is commenting on. The central conflict will reveal a moral conundrum having to deal with any number of issues such as death, innocence or righteousness.

4 Characters

In a text with an allegory, central characters many times represent abstract ideas. For example, if the protagonist is a social worker, she may be a symbol of charity and generosity. These examples of personification often interact fundamentally with the allegory, and are integral in understanding the prominent parallels between the direct plot and the meaning that exists outside of the text.

Jake Shore is an award-winning Brooklyn-based playwright, published short story writer and professor at Wagner College. His short fiction has appeared in many publications including Litro Magazine, one of London's leading literary magazines. Shore earned his MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.