A symbol can be anything that is literally present in a fiction, which has an added significance beyond its literal function in the story. So, one may find symbolic meaning in a person, an object, an element or a force: almost anything can be ‘symbolic’. The danger is that we are tempted to over-interpret, and will see symbols everywhere and everything as symbolic. An example makes this clear. We have suggested that Walton, Victor Frankenstein and Clerval together create a ‘composite’ character, representative of masculine ambition: so, the ambitions of the explorer, the scientist and the conqueror/imperialist are all represented. Does this mean that these three characters are ‘symbolic’? The answer is no. Why? Because these three men are ambitious. They represent ambition because they literally have it, not because they are symbols of it. On the other hand, we have also suggested that the daemon stands for or ‘represents’ the English industrial working class. This interpretation does suggest that the daemon is a symbol, because the daemon is not, literally, anything to do with the English working class (he is a manufactured humanoid of Bavarian origin). So, if we attach that meaning to him, and read that meaning from his character and role in the novel, then we are saying that he has an added significance, or added meaning, beyond his literal function in the story.
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