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What do you think about allegory in fiction?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by slobake, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    Several years ago I read a biography of C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien.

    The book talks about Tolkiens dislike for allegory and how much he hated "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe." Lewis had no problem with allegory but Tolkien disliked it. This fact may have contributed to the rift between Tolkien and Lewis an help bring about an end to the inklings.
    Right now I would side with Tolkien. I enjoy fiction and in particular fantasy without allegory the most. I am not against the use of allegory I just enjoy fiction without it better. As Tolkien said who a writer is colors his/her writing but that is different than intentional allegory.
    I liked "The Magicians Apprentice" and "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" but I thought the books in the series declined after that.
    I also think that Tolkein was a lot better at fantasy than Lewis. I thought "Until We Have Faces" by Lewis was a pretty good book but it is not one of my favorites. I also didn't like the Science Fiction books Lewis wrote. I have to say though that "The Screwtape Letters" and "The Great Divorce" are two of my all time favorites and they are both allegorical. However in my opinion no fantasy written by Lewis even comes close to the writings of Tolkien.
    Are there contemporary writers that come to mind? The first two I can think of are Brian Sanderson who wrote the Mistborn series. He is a mormon and I suspect there may be some allegory in his books. I have read the first two in the series and really like them.
    The other author that comes to mind is Jeffrey Overstreet. He wrote the Aurelia thread novels. If you haven't read them and you like fantasy I highly recommend the. Overstreet is a christian but I don't see any allegory in his novels. It is possible I may have missed it.
    So far I like Overstreet better than Sanderson. But I am looking forward to reading the next book in the Mistworld series.
  2. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I personally like allegory. Although I think there is room for both. A great comparison would be rock music and country music. For the most part, a lot of rock songs are shrouded in allegory, symbolism, and other literary devices. There is often a lot of ambiguity in rock tunes that allows for a number of interpretations. On the other hand, most country music is pretty upfront with its meaning. Still, there are great songs in both idioms of music.

    Tolkien and Lewis were both great writers; although I've always been a fan of Lewis. I saw Freud's Last Session a few months ago. Awesome play (even though it's a fictional account of Freud and Lewis meeting)!
  3. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    That sounds like a great play. I will have to look for that one. Have you seen "The Screwtape Letters" on stage? A really great interpretation of the book.
  4. "I think people who speak in metaphors should shampoo my crotch."
    Jack Nicholson, As Good As it Gets
  5. I think I read somewhere that Tolken thought that most people were too stupid to get allegory. I'm sure those are not his exact words... anyway I like allegory because its everywhere. The Crucible is one of my favorite stories. (yeah i know its really a play but what ever)
  6. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Well, I differ in my view on Lewis' fiction. I thought Till We Have Faces was brilliant and I really enjoyed the first two books of the space trilogy. The third one kind of fell apart but it was quite clear that he was trying to write a Charles Williams novel with that one. I find Williams' weirdness fascinating but it doesn't make for a great read. I agree that the Magician's Nephew is one of the best of the Narnia books - it was also one of the last he wrote, modern publishers have rearranged them in the chronological order of the story, not the order they were published. Originally it was a "main sequence" - Lion/Witch/Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Silver Chair - then the Horse and his Boy and the Magician's Nephew (telling stories from earlier), and then the Last Battle to end it.

    The thing is that Lion/Witch/Wardrobe is the only strongly allegorical one of the set, plus perhaps the Last Battle. In the rest of them, sure Aslan is still Jesus and all that, but I think Lewis got more comfortable as a storyteller with each one; the Silver Chair is probably the best written of the main sequence.

    It's funny, I don't even think of Lewis' thorough allegories - The Great Divorce, The Pilgrim's Regress - as fiction. I just group them with his religious/apologetic books.

    The fun thing about Tolkien is that he hints at allegories but subverts them. Which character in LOTR is the Jesus figure? Umm.... lots of them...

    In general, I prefer good storytelling to allegory. If you're going to write an allegory, though, do it whole-hog, like Aesop's Fables or the Uncle Remus stories or Pilgrim's Progress.

    Funny thing about the Crucible - I get caught up in hating on it, because I always have to unteach it when I teach witch trials to students. But it's a great play about McCarthyism, just a terrible mangling of Salem. Unfortunately it gets assigned in high school to teach Salem rather than to teach McCarthy.
  7. It's quite worrying when people who are there to educate, or dictate what is to used to educate, miss the point of the educational tool that badly.
  8. We were thought McCarthy with the Crucible in school, our History and English departments were pretty on the ball. However I have had met a few people who think that it is a factual retelling of the Salem trials and have had to explain to them whats up.
  9. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Tolkien wrote allegory in all of his works. He may not have done it on purpose, but come on! It's certainly there!
  10. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I'm too dense for allegory. If it's a good book, it's a good book. Animal farm was about a bunch of talking animals living in a very strange, yet somehow familiar place.

    I don't much care for subtleties or "art". I want to be entertained, I don't want to have to think about it.........
  11. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    I love both writers, and have no problems with allegory unless it's handled badly; the latter novels in Richard Goodkind's Sword of Truth series come to mind. But Lewis never felt like it was bludgeoning me, just providing a different window with which to view various aspects of Christ. For what it's worth, I thought the last of the Space Trilogy was the best.

    Tolkien didn't deliberately write allegory, but it leaked through all over the place anyway, with much the same effect on me as Lewis' intentional allegory. As has been quoted, a writer's character will come through. Lewis' presentation of Christian principles in his nonfiction works came across to me a lot like his apologetic works; very direct, very simple, easy to to grasp.
  12. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    As long as I take an antihistamine I'm fine.
  13. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    Oh, wait, you said allegory.

    Never mind.
  14. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Symbolism and allegory are two different things. In the Narnia books, Aslan = Jesus. That's pretty direct allegory. In Middle Earth, Aragorn is a Christ figure - in some ways. Gandalf is a Christ figure too... in other ways.... and Frodo in others... the symbolism is there but it's not the kind of direct coding that makes for allegory.
  15. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    It is plain to see I am in way over my head here. I catergorize myself with Phalex in this. I am glad I started the thread I am learning a lot. So if it is okay with everyone else I will try and keep quiet and listen to what you have to say. If that is possible for me. ;)
    Keep in mind I think that the Three Stooges are the height of American Cinema and I like Grisham. There I said it I LIKE GRISHAM, I feel so free now. :bag:
    Please carry on.
  16. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    And that is nothing to sneeze at.
  17. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    Come on what? Come on Seabisquit? Come 7-11? :p
  18. Bingo.

    When the allegory interferes with the storytelling, then t is an issue.
  19. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I thought the whole War of the Rings was basically WWII. Sauron = Hitler; The Orcs = The Nazis; Hobbits = The British people...

  20. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    WWI I thought....

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