Concrete Embodiment: Emblem and Symbol
THERE are several words in English, a surprisingly large number, for a story or picture that has a further meaning than the object or event it depicts. Among the commonest are allegory, parable, fable, emblem, symbol; a proverb too conveys a general meaning beyond its literal content, and similes and metaphors come into the same class of statements (or compressed statements) that are made not for their immediate meaning but for a further implied meaning. Tracking through the dictionary you find, closely related in sense, apologue, analogy, trope, figure, similitude, type, token. Not content with all these, we have in recent times added Freud's distinction between manifest content and latent meaning in dreams, and Jung's notion of the primordial image and archetype. Even more recently some communication theorists have added a few of their own.
Such a wealth of synonyms and partial synonyms suggests that the process of conveying a meaning beyond what is directly stated is one of the highly important features of ordinary language. It seems to be avoided only at two extremes: either in giving instructions or commands within circumscribed, particular situations; or in attempting the highly abstract statements of philosophy, law, science, mathematics and so on. But in ordinary conversation and narrative, and in fiction and poetry, it is in one form or another the natural mode of expression. For one thing, any event you choose to describe (whether in gossip or in fiction or drama) is interesting and is