Symbol vs Motif
In order to take full use of the two figures of speech, symbol and motif, in the field of literature, one should have a clear idea about the difference between them. Symbol and motifs are concepts that are made heavy use of in literary works. Theme, motif, and symbols are techniques used by writers to beautifully explain things that are beyond means of ordinary words of a language. In fact, plots and subplots, along with characterization of those playing important parts in a story, are done beautifully using these instruments by great authors. However, readers are often confused with the differences between symbol and motif, and this article attempts to highlight these differences.
Symbolization is something that is rather easy to understand, at least in practice. We see so many symbols being used in various subjects, leave alone literature. In chemistry, O2 is a symbol that tells us that we are talking about oxygen gas. However, when we are in the realm of literature, a character inside a novel is compared with something or someone else through symbolism. It is a fact that one cannot compare a person with a lion or a rock, but a writer does it beautifully making use of symbols. However, the reader becomes confused when it comes to recognizing motifs in the same literary work that are used to develop the theme of the plot as well as to inform the readers about it.
What does Symbol mean?
A symbol is an object or a thing or a figure that is used to compare something with something else though there may not be any apparent similarity between the two. A symbol is not overused and one sees it used one or two times only in a literary work. We all know that cross has come to represent Christianity and is universally accepted as a symbol of Christianity.
What does Motif mean?
Motif, on the other hand, is a recurring idea in a work of literature that supports a theme. A motif need not just be a word as it can even be an image or a sound that helps in developing the theme of the work. An example for the motif can be taken from the book Divergent by Veronica Roth. In the book there are different fractions in the society. These fractions dress accordingly. Their character traits are symbolized by their dress code. Throughout the story this fact of dress code reflecting each fraction comes to light. It is a recurring image, therefore, can be considered a motif. The journey Dorothy has to take in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can be taken as another motif.
What is the difference between Symbol and Motif?
• Symbols carry a deeper meaning and are used to compare something with something else.
• Motif is not just a word but can be a sound or even an image that is used to help in developing the theme in a literary work.
• Symbol is used just once or twice in a novel whereas motif is used many times and seems recurring to readers.