Saturday, July 28, 2012

Symbolism and Typology and the Ancient Art of Storytelling

As a high school senior and later a college literature major, I loved writing about symbolism in stories. My first symbolism essay was on The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In it, I discussed the character Simon as a Christ figure. I still have the essay, of which I was extremely proud, though now I see it was poorly written. It earned an A, so it must have been decent for a high school senior. This was when discussing Christianity in school was allowed. I believe the teacher suggested the topic.

As an adult, returning to the Catholic faith, I grew excited to learn about Biblical typology. A "type" is an element of the Old Testament: a person, thing, or event, which foreshadows something in the New Testament. The Fisheaters website has a nice article on it.

The element can be seen as having literally existed but also be symbolic. It's not either/or.

I think of God as the supreme author of the universe. After all, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn1:1)*

For instance, circumcision foreshadows Christian baptism. The Passover lamb signifies the sacrifice of Jesus. The Ark of the Covenant symbolize foreshadows Mary who carried Jesus in her womb. (More on these and others at this article at Catholic Answers.

Today I listened to Grammar Girl's podcast. (No, I'm not veering off course). She talked about Lisa Cron's book Wired for Story. Ms. Cron says our brains are wired to respond to story. She's right.  People have always told stories--first orally, then written. God, being the first storyteller, creating the material universe with the Word, of course we respond to story. It's built in the very fiber of our being.

Ms. Cron outlines what she sees as the seven rules of story. Check out Grammar Girl's site to listen or read about them. I'm not sure I agree with every point. For instance, many of the oldest examples of written stories are not emotion based nor are they concerned with the protagonists inner journey. However, her list is thought provoking and useful for the writer (or reader) of fiction. It would make for a fun springboard when writing college essays. I'm eager to read Cron's book, Wired for Story. It sounds like a valuable and interesting book.

*"New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved."


  1. Recently I read a book by Dan Brown "The Lost Symbol". It was very interesting and I came to know many things about ancient mysteries. This article has thrown more light on ancient mysteries. Thanks for an interesting article!!

  2. Oh cool. I havn't read that book yet.
    I'm so happy you enjoyed my post. :)