Use of Mythology and Symbolism in Novel

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      Myth, is a legendary or a traditional story that usually concerns an event, or a hero, with or without using factual or real explanations, particularly one concerning with demigods or deities, and describes some rites, practices and natural phenomenon. Typically, a myth involves historical events and supernatural beings. There are many types of myths such as classic myths, religious myths, and modern myths etc. Myths exist in every society, as they are basic elements of human culture. The main function of myths is to teach moral lessons and explain historical records. Authors of great literary works have taken their stories and themes from myths. Myths and their mythical symbols lead to creativity in literary works. We can understand a culture more deeply and in a much better way by knowing and appreciating its stories, dreams and myths. Myths came before religions and all religious stories are, in fact, retellings of global mythical themes. Besides literature, myths also play a great role in science, psychology and philosophy.

      Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. The symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature. Symbolism in literature evokes interest in readers as they find an opportunity to get an insight of the writer’s mind on how he views the world and how he thinks of common objects and actions, having broader implications.

      The novelist’s conscious day-to-day preoccupation is the setting down of incident, the delineation of personality, the regulation of exposition, climax, and denouement. A novel comes closer to myth. Its characters turn into symbols of permanent human states or impulses. The mythic or symbolic intention of a novel may manifest itself less in structure than in details which, though they appear naturalistic, are really something more. The shattering of the eponymous golden bowl in Henry James’s 1904 novel makes a palpable and truly symbolic collapse of a relationship. Even the choice of a character’s name may be symbolic. Sammy Mountjoy, in William Golding’s Free Will (1959), has fallen from the grace of heaven, the mount of joy, by an act of volition that the title makes clear. The symbol, the special significance at a sub-narrative level, works best when it can fit without obtrusion into a context of naturalism. There are symbolic novels whose infra-narrative meaning cannot easily be stated, since it appears to subsist on an unconscious level. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) is such a work, as is D.H. Lawrence’s novella St. Mawr (1925), in which the significance of the horse is powerful and mysterious.

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