How to write an essay about a symbol

in "Andrei Rublev"


After watching Tarkovsky's film "Andrei Rublev" you will write an essay about a symbol used in it.


What is a symbol?  A symbol is a physical thing that stands for an idea.  Symbols appear in literature and very often in artistic films such as "Andrei Rublev." 


Here is a paragraph about symbols from the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics by Preminger, Warnke and Hardison, 1974:


The word "symbol" derives from the Greek verb, symballein, meaning "to put together," and the related noun, symbolon, meaning" mark," "token," or "sign," in the sense of the half-coin carried away by each of the two parties of an agreement as a pledge.  Hence, it means basically a joining or combination, and, consequently, something once so joined or combined as standing for or representing in itself, when seen alone, the entire complex.  This term in literary usage refers most specifically to a manner of representation in which what is shown (normally referring to something material) means, by virtue of association, something more or something else (normally referring to something immaterial).  Thus a literary symbol unites an image (the analogy) and an idea or conception (the subject) which that image suggest or evokes, as when, for example, the image of climbing a staircase (the difficulty involved in the effort to raise oneself) is used to suggest the idea of "raising" oneself spiritually or becoming purified (T.S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday).


When we speak about symbols in Russian 120, we'll use the terms "the analogy" and "the subject" as the previous paragraph indicates.  The analogy is the symbol that you see in the film (the physical object) that brings to your mind a subject or idea/conception that is "more or something else" as the article states.


What makes reading literature and viewing films fun is identifying symbols and thinking of the immaterial subjects, the ideas, that they suggest to you.


Use this structure for your essay:


1.  Introduction:  Lead into your discussion.  Speak about symbols in general, or about Tarkovskyıs use of symbols in the film.  Or make a personal statement about your view of symbols.  Or ...

2.  Body of essay:  Name and develop your symbol.  Be specific about what the subject is that the symbol brings to your mind.  Develop an argument for how the symbol better helps to understand the film.

3.  Conclusion:  Evaluate the effectiveness of your symbol.  Or place it into the larger context of the universe of symbols used in the film.  Or ...