Examples of allegory

Examples of allegory abound in literature. In fact, you no doubt have already read many. Below we will look at some examples of allegory you may be familiar with, and why they are allegories.

Aesop's Fables

One of the first examples of allegory that most people read and understand as an allegory is the collection of short stories knows as Aesop's Fables. While there are many fables given to us from Aesop (a Greek writer who lived almost 2,600 years ago), a few are most prominent in many of our minds because of their strengths as allegories. 

The Tortoise and the Hare 

This classic fable from Aesop tells the story of a plucky hare who acts the bully and teases Tortoise for being so slow. Tortoise challenges Hare to a race and, because of Hare's overconfidence and laziness, wins. While this story can be enjoyed as just a fun story where a turtle beats a rabbit in a footrace, it is obviously meant, like all other fables from Aesop, to teach a lesson, and therefore this story is considered an allegory. The hidden meaning, or moral, here is that some people are born with natural talents but waste them to idleness or laziness. The tortoise's character is meant to show how despite natural talents, perseverance, hard work, and focus can win the day. Adults read this fable and see both the tortoise and hare as people they know in real life or have heard about. The race, read allegorically, is actually life itself. See the story for yourself below and try to read it allegorically.

The Ant and the Grasshopper

This story tells of a playful grasshopper who loves to play all day. He teases poor Ant who is hard at work all day long during the spring and summer about wasting his life away working. In the end, winter comes and grasshopper starves while ant makes it comfortably through the winter. Again, this can be read as a tragic story of the death of a grasshopper, or an allegory for how those who are hardworking and prepared will be able to survive setbacks and hard times. Read it for yourself below.

Dr. Seuss

I'll bet you didn't know that Dr. Seuss was an expert allegorist. Nearly all of his full-length books for children are in fact allegories of important political or moral issues targeted at adults. See two of his most famous below.

Yertle the Turtle

Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist during WWII. He drew many cartoons mocking Hitler and the Nazis. "Yertle the Turtle" is an entertaining story of a turtle king who continues to reach for more an more power at the expense of his turtle subjects. He keeps reaching until he is dethroned. Sound familiar? "Yertle the Turtle" has been called an allegory of the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler. Whether it is or not, the story can definitely be read (and is intended to be read) as an allegory that criticizes totalitarian and autocratic forms of government and how they destroy the individualism and freedom of the people. Check it out for yourself below.

The Sneetches

"The Sneetches" is a favorite Dr. Seuss story for all kids who have read it. It tells the story of some silly creatures who spend their all their days thinking about how special/terrible they are because of the star they have/don't have on their bellies. A opportunistic person comes along and gets them to spend all their money changing their belly stars. In the end they learn that the stars didn't really matter after all (duh) because they were more alike than different. Though kids don't usually understand the allegory of this story, older readers understand immediately how brilliantly Dr. Seuss has illustrated the ridiculousness of racism and the harm it can cause through this beautiful allegory. Read it for yourself below.

Other Examples of Allegory

There are many other examples of allegory you may be familiar with already. Below are a few more famous ones of which you've probably heard.
Module 1: Getting Started                Module 4: Understanding the allegory, Part 1