In literature, symbolism is one of the elements used by different writers especially poets. It is defined as the use of images, objects and symbols to represent ideas or quality or to communicate a hidden meaning in the poem. I started several scholars and writers of the 19th century. They were part of a movement whose objective was to reject realism.
The Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass has deeply used internal symbols or symbolism in his writing of both novels, My Century and Laughter & forgetting. In the novel My Century, the author uses each of the a hundred monologue chapters to deeply describe each year during the years of the war from 1900 to 1999. The writer symbolically puts himself in the shoes of protagonists featured in the novel. He tells the history of the way revolution in the 20th century from the perspectives of the heroes that were involved in the war.
Several of the history recorded by Green include: dead woman’s view towards Germany after the destruction of Berlin wall (1999), the remembrance of Ex-Nazis and their deeds in 1934, delirious letter by the turn-of-the-century poet Else Lasker-Sch ler, and even the description of his personal life. The letter found by the author in the novel is symbolic where she imagines herself being 20 years younger. The author uses the letter as an internal symbol to reflect on the wishes and imaginary mind of the chapter’s protagonist.
In the book, Laughter and Forgetting, the author has extensively use internal symbols to deliver various messages. The imagery employed in the novel includes the children of the island who horribly terrorize Tamina. In the novel, the children are not viewed as the innocent, little knowing beings. They posses some characters that make them symbolically deliver a hidden message. The extreme rules that they follow and also expect Tamina to follow represent the harsh warfare that is in the society. They are tactile beings full of curiosity about the nakedness and body of Tamina. Kundera explains their character as violent and aggressive. “Their desire to hurt is positive and cheerful, a desire that can rightly be called joy. They want to hurt anyone beyond their world’s border only in order to exalt their own world and its law” (VI.23.4). The border is symbolically defined by Jan since he is aging. The author further presents the border as the only thing that separates the people from hopelessness and purposelessness. Jan says goodbye to his friend as he is ready to cross the border to the other side i.e. after death.
Another internal symbol used by the author is circle dance. The circles symbolized the unity that co-existed amongst the people and their desire to live in harmony and do things together in solidarity. The dances were not celebrations of people’s good deeds but rather celebrating the hurt that the communists had caused to the foreigners. The dances could have symbolically meant their way of tying to forget the nasty things they had done to the non-citizens.
Clementi’s hat was also symbolically used by the author. After Clementis was killed for being a traitor, he is cropped out of a photo by the propaganda boys. Unfortunately, they forget to remove the hat worn by Clementis which evidently proved that he was in the photo. The photo was taken while Clementis offered Gottwald his hat to keep away the chill. The hat in the photo that couldn’t disappear symbolically meant resistance. He’ll stay there just as Clements’s hat stayed on Gottwald’s head. (I.19.4)
The author continues to use internal symbols in different aspects in the book. Especially in these times of war, one could view border as an extremely important thing. One could be killed for trespassing into another country illegally. However, in the book, the border is used to symbolically mean death. The author compares the bordered, which he explains that it is always there with the, with death.
The German military, fighters and police used to fully wear full uniform that consisted of a spiked helmet. The spike could have symbolically meant the First World War. The helmets were made of well polished leather and had an ornamental spike at the top centre. The spiked helmets are mostly associated with the armies of Kaiser Wilhelm 2.
The title of the novel is also symbolic. As one may interpret the novel’s title, Laughter and Forgetting, the stories of the horrors and killings that were done during the war could be painful moments that the communists would not afford laughter. The communists were laughing while the non citizens were crying and dying of the torture that the war had brought unto them. The communists wanted to forget the identities of the many foreigners that they had killed.
The title of My Century forecasts of the genre of the novel as the stories narrated by the authors are told in first person singular. He puts himself into the situation that existed years ago as he turns out as a character for more than ten times.
The hundred chapters that make up the novel are symbolically representing the hundred years of warfare that was in Germany during the First World War.
The symbolism in these two books effectively delivers the message. The dancing circles are the best example where they represent the unity amongst the people. The author says that he felt like he felt like the devil thrown out of heaven. This compares the hidden unity amongst the people with heaven.
The border’s also is a great success as Jan explains and compares it to that which takes all your value and one becomes of non existence. He says death would be like crossing to the other side of the border.