contemporary christian fiction · writing

The allegory in fiction: How much is too much in a story?

Allegories- meaning a symbolic representation of truth, are meant to be taken, it seems and with a grain of dedication and the salt of hard work, an author can achieve great success with his or her work. The question remains though: Should an allegory be very obvious or should it remain in the subtlties?

An example of going too far.

Vanessa Davis Griggs wrote, “Redeeming Waters” with King David and Bathsheba in mind. For those who are not into the bible here’s a brief catch of it. King David, a musician and handsome man spotted Bathsheba bathing one day and he sent his messengers out to see who she was. I mean, she was completely nude and he wanted her. Bad. So he finds out her husband is in the military and works for him and this does not deter King David from laying with her and making her fruitful.

The book was not bad, but the main character was judgemental and the book had character names that were strange and not original at the same time. One can basically figure out who was who with names like Unzell(Uriah), Brianna Bathsheba Wright Waters(Bathsheba), King d. Avid(King David), and so on. Each chapter began with a scripture from 2 Samuel or Psalms- which pretty much predicted what would happen next in the story.

Another allegory from the past.

“Hind’s Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard comes to mind. My husband loves the book because it is so profound, mesmerizing, and you can see it in your mind as events unfold. “The book takes its title from Habbakkuk 3:19” in the bible and the girl Much Afraid has a family of fearful folks and a cousin named Craven Fear who keeps making advances on her. For more background see: Wikipedia: “Hind’s Feet on High Places” The allegory is in showing how much God loves her(us) and may also be based on “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

Yet, “Hind’s Feet on High Places” does not make things so obvious and you can see where she is going in her story when Much Afraid enters her journey with a Shepherd who we know to be Jesus and he pierces her heart with a vine of love……

So, the question remains. How much is too much in an allegory?

I think that when an allegory is written,  there should be some deep reflection of what is happening to the character and the situation surrounding that character. Griggs did this superbly in Redeeming Waters- the situation was a sin that happened between two people and together they had to find a way to reconcile what happened and apologize/repent to their Creator. Basic message. In “Hind’s Feet on High Places”, the basic message is Love. That’s pretty clear. The message has to reflect the characters’ decisions and vice versa but you must be familiar with a story first.

Have you seen the movie Prometheus? I have not- but the name “Prometheus” actually was meant for a titan who stole fire from heaven and gave it to mankind. He was tortured by Zeus for this. So I am guessing the movie may be loosely based on this premise. The writer had to be familiar with the story of Prometheus.

Allegories are fun to play with and change up. There are typically no rules but I supose if you know what an allegory is, you should have at least a piece of that symbolic figure and situation floating around there.

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