Symbolism is one the many literary devices employed in literature. Writers use symbols to give meaning to objects, or events that are outside of the literal. Many people are familiar with common symbols in everyday life. Red roses are symbols of love, and doves are symbols of peace. Many classic works of literature employ symbolism.
Symbolism in literature provides a way for a writer to explore depth, frequently though double meaning. For example, if a character crosses a river, the writer is usually employing symbolism to signify rebirth, like baptism. Many writers use color for symbolism, with white representing good, black representing evil, and green symbolizing new life.
Some symbolism takes the form of natural phenomenon. Night frequently symbolizes death. A classic example of this use occurs on Elie Wiesel’s Night, which is about his experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Sunrise, on the hand, is usually the symbol for a new beginning. Indeed, Wiesel’s Night was the first of a trilogy about the Holocaust, with the other novels being Dawn and Day.
Symbolism in literature is often used to evoke various archetypes, such as good versus evil. When a character takes a trip, it is usually symbolic of a journey to discover the self. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings can be interpreted as an extended journey symbolizing self-discovery.