Symbolism is a form ofliterature where the context of a story is not taken literally and has hiddenand a more in-depth meaning taking any form that can be it as an object, aperson, a situation or an event. This type of literature gives readers a chancetwo understand a story in two dimensions; the lighter and deeper meaning.
Symbolism may also involve metaphors where you compare two things that are notsimilar and shows that they do have something in common. The objective of thispaper is to analyze the use of symbolism, in the following two short stories:”If I Were a Man” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Story of theLizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives” by Eduardo Galeano. From ancient times the male species has always felt thesense of superiority over the female species. As the world continues to evolve,this male chauvinism has gradually decreased which has seen women gainindependence in the job place, possessing properties and engaging with men in asocial setting.
In the short story “If I Were a Man”, Mollie Mathewson, theprotagonist is featured as she narrates on her attitude towards declining wivesthe right to work. Mollie becomes her husband Gerald, (she wishes for it) andsays: “She was Gerald, walking down the path so erect and square-shouldered, ina hurry for his morning train, as usual, and, it must be confessed, insomething of a temper” (Gilman). This is why the ‘man’ is the main form of symbolism inCharlotte’s story. This seen in several instances like when Mollie shuts toimagination state and starts to wish she was a man.
She starts to see the worldin a new, different way as if everything she thought was wrong, is now right.Mollie feels a sense of comfort as she lays her head back on the commutertrain, she also discovers the presence of so many pockets in her pants, and itdelights her with the convenience of having everything she would wish for ather hands. She feels the joy of having all these possessions without having tobeg or persuade. While on the train, Mollie listens to conversations menhave on topics such as business and politics while smoking cigars and she feelsthe sense of independence women would have if they were allowed the same as ofthese men are. The new figures of shops from the train signify the new lifethat Mollie would wish for, their revolution and the right to indulge with allmales without being degraded as the lesser one. These shops made Mollie see sheis indulging in a business venture with the aim of acquiring something forherself which was not begged for either persuaded against. Mollie shows how Gerald was popular and how everyoneseemed to know him, that is from the trains and rooms they talked from. Thesymbol of popularity shows how men were highly regarded in the society andwomen not, this goes further, and Mollie explains how she overheard theirconversations about women and business and what men thought of women as beingfragile and weak.
From the story, there is a symbol of happiness which is onlypossessed by the male community due to their independence which women cannotafford. An average American man according to Mollie is married and has thehappiness that goes into general, and this kind of joy gives them all the rightto talk about all the women regardless of their stature. Another story with important symbolism regarding women isthe “The Story of the Lizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives” byEduardo Galeano. This story is about the boy-lizard was created by God toanswer the woman’s prayers for a son.
God got tired of the prayers, and he senther a son with the face of a human being and body of a lizard. The boy Dulcidioreaches eighteen years, and his parents find him a bride whom he married buteats her on her wedding night only to find bones in the morning. This tragedybecomes a trend since there is always a girl from poor households to devour. Ona typical routine day, Lizard-man sees a woman in glasses reading a book andbecomes interested. He shows his wealth; however, the woman is not interested,and he ends up losing her. On a Sunday, Dulcidio finds the woman at the riverbank, and they get married, on the wedding night they ‘set each other on fire,and this makes Dulcidio dreaming for the first time, and the girl eats him bitsby bits all the way to the tail. This story is an allegory and a fable that portrays womenas prey and men as predators and it uses fiction to tell a truth about humanexistence.
There are several symbols that elaborate on this fable which havelessons on teachings about life. There is the symbol of the lizard. In thestory, the beast disguises himself with a harmless creature thus luringhelpless girls to a wedding which will be a source of death to them in theirmost vulnerable time. This never-ending hunger towards women showsdissatisfaction of men and how they never get enough of their wives or a singlewoman. There is a mark of symbolism in pulling of the skin of the lizard. Thegirl tells the lizard less euphemistically to stop acting shy and when shetakes off his skin and throws it to the floor she ‘sets him on fire.
‘ Theunderlying meaning is that men feel emotional when you strip them off theirarmor, they sometimes rest contented thus proving defenseless and vulnerable,and therefore they end up being victims. Love too is a symbol of this fable, in the sense thatwhat goes around comes back around. The lizard used to eat brides on theirwedding nights, and this happens to him on his wedding night because loveblinded him. Little did he know that his harms would come back to him when hedecided to marry this beautiful girl. The brides in the narrative also have a symbolicrepresentation of the difficulty of women in the society.
Despite the girlsbeing eaten by the lizard in their big night, there was always a spare girlfrom the poor households to add up to the list of the fallen. This symbol showshow men have been undermined women in the current society. This has been seenfrom sexual harassment, domestic violence, and being denied equal rights andopportunities. These acts have shown how the society has been in the front linein the female gender discrimination.