When studying allegorical texts, it is important that students understand the concept as a foundation for the reading. Since an allegory's purpose is to convey a deeper, symbolic meaning, students must be able to define the term and spot the references in the work of literature. This following lesson plan is a resource to help teachers and students understand the concept.
What is an allegory, and how can its deeper meaning be explored? Teach students this literary element and ask them to think deeply about ways an allegory can affect the work as a whole.
A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one
Allegories are works of literature written as a single, unified, rhetorical device. They represent abstract ideas and principles using concrete characters, figures, and events. Allegories can come in many forms: plays, poetry, music, novels, etc. They tell a story and convey an idea or a principle at the same time; their main objectives are often to teach a moral lesson. Although allegories use symbols, they are distinct from "symbolism", and are best thought of as a very complex metaphor. Allegories are an entirely symbolic work, meaning everything throughout the story - characters, events, and locations - is designed to portray an abstract idea.
Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, was written during the 1950s as an allegory of McCarthyism and the "Red Scare". During this time in America, people were falsely accused of being members of the Communist party. The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and focused on the community that engaged in witch hunts. Much like the Red Scare, the people of Salem soon found that no one was safe, as people were naming names just to save themselves.
Animal Farm was written specifically to represent Communism in Soviet Russia. The author, George Orwell, uses animals on a farm to depict the coup d’état of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, which led to the Communist Revolution in Russia before WWII. The animals represent the greed and corruption of the revolution while showing how those in power can change the ideology of a nation. As a guiding principle, the animals write: “All animals are equal.” This is later corrupted by the amendment: “But some animals are more equal than others.” Orwell's purpose in writing the novel as an allegory was to convey his beliefs about the Russian Revolution.
This famous allegory by C.S. Lewis is full of religious symbolism. Lewis, a devout Christian, said he did not plan on using the Narnia books to push his religious ideology, however, the parallels are clear, and it has a large Christian following. The lion, Aslan, is a Christ-like figure who rises from the dead. Under this reading, Edmund, who betrays Aslan, is like Judas, and the White Witch who tempts Edmund, corresponds to the Devil.
Although this lesson can be used for multiple grade levels, below are Common Core State Standards for Grades 9-10. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.
Students will be able to define and understand allegory and differentiate it from other types of symbolic representation in literature.
Be specific when asking students to create a storyboard that explains the allegory in a work of literature. Make sure that students include examples, and explanations of these examples, to back up their claim. If they are doing this, a project that requires students download their storyboards as a PowerPoint is a perfect way for them to explain each cell.
Activator: Using the Examples of Allegory in Literature storyboard, along with a definition of allegory, go over the examples as a class. Periodically stop to check for clarification or see if students have examples they know. Once you have gone through what an allegory is and how to distinguish it from symbolism, discuss your current novel and the central idea.
After going over the term, decide whether you would like students to pair together or complete a storyboard individually. Using Storyboard That they can create a storyboard depicting different parts of the work and compare it with the allegorical reference. Try starting with this template.
After students have finished creating their master storyboard, consider having students present their ideas to each other. Using the slideshow or PowerPoint feature is a great way to cap off the lesson. Check out our lessons on how having students put together a presentation will help them further master identifying allegories.