Difference Between Allegory and Symbolism (With table)

A poet’s dream to awe readers with varied content has been a critical and most important trait to have in him. Every poet wants his poems to lure the audience into different situations intended.

Literary Device is a series of devices used by poets and writers to make the audience feel different, creating effects and forming a purpose for a cause. Allegory and Symbolism are literary devices used by poets and writers.

Allegory vs Symbolism

The main difference between Allegory and Symbolism is that Allegory cannot be used in Symbolism and has a broad meaning. In contrast, Symbolism can be used in Allegory and carries several layers of meaning.

Allegory is a literary device carrying hidden meanings of many types like moral, spiritual, or political. It’s a way to describe or write a story where the protagonist or other characters carry different meanings and implications beyond literary senses. It has border meanings and generally tries to say something indirectly. Allegory uses symbolism and crates literary sense and abstract ideas towards the readers.

Symbolism has been said to be a literary device carrying different symbols as meanings. It generally has several layers of definitions of the things the poet or writer wants to convey through a single phrase or word. The terms or words make the reader get into a world of ideas beyond reality. We cannot say the prose is symbolism if allegory is present. It is an attempt for the readers to force themselves into a world of ideas beyond reality and involves the fictitious wondering of the writer.

Comparison Table Between Allegory and Symbolism

Parameters of ComparisonAllegorySymbolism
InterrelationshipSays something indirectlyCarries layers of meaning
DenotesDenotes Classical, Medieval, Modern or biblicalDenotes symbols as simile, metaphor or love, etc.
ExpressesGaining abstract ideasExpresses Emotion, loneliness, etc
MeaningCarries meanings within itselfTries to find literary meaning
Usesmostly in poems mostly in plays like moral plays etc.

What is Allegory?

Allegory is a literary term carrying a hidden meaning of any type or saying something indirectly concerning the prose. Allegory can be of any type varying from moral, spiritual, or political. It carries a heavy meaning, and an allegory uses symbolism to depict abstract ideas to the readers and evokes a literary sense in the prose. Most of the time, Allegory uses symbolism to show abstract ideas and produce literary meaning in the prose dealing with the historical or conceptual writing of the writer.

Example: In the prose, “To kill a mocking bird,” the word mocking has been used to denote innocence and beauty.

With two types of allegories present, they carry a broader meaning.

Two types of allegories are:

  1. Historical Allegory- They comes with historical or modern prose and poems generally depicting actual events and are sub-divided into four types Classical, Medieval, Modern and Biblical allegory
  2. Conceptual Allegory- This Allegory comes with a broader view of fiction where actual events do not occur. The writer tries to convey something from his head, creating an aura of abstract ideas.

Allegory does tell the journey of life and has some valid points to remember:

  1. Allegory amplifies satire by penetrating on life and society.
  2. Different types of qualities can be seen in the plays with names like patience, purity, truth, etc., invoking sense and meaning.
  3. The theme is developed of metaphors that continue throughout the story defining it into an extended or sustained metaphorical theme play or poem.

What is Symbolism?

Symbolism generally devotes symbols in the literary world carrying several layers of meaning to understand the basic idea behind the writer’s motive to flourish wisdom. With Symbolism, we can find the plot’s literary meaning and literary sense in a word or phrase.

It takes us to a world penetrating the main idea beyond reality, giving the freedom to writers one needs while writing.

The prime importance of Symbolism is giving writers the freedom to express and also other priority like-

  1. They make readers develop a sense of the idea and plot with layers of meaning and opinion.
  2. Creating meaning from multiple interpretations of phrases or sentence
  3. The words together form an abstract meaning that goes beyond a reader’s vision creating new ideas and meanings.

An example of Symbolism is: In the lines “The White moon is setting behind the white wave, and time is set with me, O!”

The lines evoke the Emotion of melancholy where the white moon devotes a colorless source of happiness and resembles nature with the character.

Symbolism helps find the literary meaning and literary meaning through academic sense and emerges as vivid fresh ideas.

Main Differences Between Allegory and Symbolism

  1. Allegory interrelates something indirectly towards the reader through the writer’s point of view. Allegory characterizes meanings in different ways concerning moral, spiritual, or political, whereas Symbolism denotes symbols and carries layers of meaning in understanding the values and concepts about the plot.
  2. Allegory is of two types Historical and conceptual Allegory. Historical Allegory comes with natural events and figures, whereas the conceptual Allegory denotes any fictitious work where real events did not occur. On the other hand, Symbolism needs Allegory and comes with imagery, Emotion, etc.
  3. Allegory expresses abstract ideas to the readers and makes it quite uneasy for the writer to convey Emotion as thought. While Symbolism gives freedom to the writer by expressing Emotion, loneliness, etc.
  4. Allegory carries meaning within itself, while Symbolism finds literary meaning describing the context of the text.
  5. Allegory can be used in Symbolism in generating thought and expression, whereas Symbolism cannot be used in Allegory to create effects or metaphors.


The world of literary works with literary devices and terms denotes expressions, creating ideas, symbolizing peace, showing hatred, etc. Writers widely use these literary techniques to date in invoking unmistakable and creating satirical, historical or different aura among the readers.

The two terms, Allegory and Symbolism, denote different ideas but are often confused in terms of usage. Both the terms are indeed an essential asset in the literature that contemporary writers and modern writers inherit.


  1. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9780203462126/allegory-jeremy-tambling
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=JnY99cjOh7sC&oi=fnd&pg=PA9&dq=symbolism&ots=KXnfG_LtaW&sig=tokI8_rFJ6MyVnEzOKBMaamkUJQ