Monday, July 21, 2014

“How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” The folk song asks this rhetorical question not because the songwriter’s looking for an answer, but to prod the hearer to think.

Another rhetorical device that’s familiar to everyone, though not always identified as rhetorical, is allegory. When used in literature, a character, object, setting, plot, or other component is used to represent something in the real world. And, like a rhetorical question, its purpose is to encourage the reader to use his noodle. 

What comes to mind when you think of allegory? Pilgrim’s Progress? Animal Farm? The Chronicles of Narnia? They all fit the bill. But I’m not sure Gateway to Gannah does.

What’s Gateway to Gannah, you may ask? It’s a sci-fi series written by yours truly. I released the third book a couple months ago and plan to publish the last title in October. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. Few people have.

When Sandra mentioned my doing a post about allegory, my first thought was, Huh? Because, you see, I never thought of Gannah as an allegory. Its themes are all pretty straightforward, not veiled in symbolism. 

In Pilgrim’s Progress, the protagonist’s journey is a metaphor for the Christian walk. In Animal Farm, the Russian Revolution is portrayed by a coalition of animals taking over the farm and establishing pigs as the new ruling class. In the Narnia stories, a wise, powerful lion represents Jesus Christ. 

In Gannah, however, people are people, the Creator and Redeemer are exactly as named, and the Bible is the Bible. No room for misinterpretation. 

This set to me to thinking about allegory in its various forms, and now I’m finding it everywhere I look – particularly in the Bible. One example among a multitude: the nation of Israel is represented by a vine in Psalm 80:8-16 as well in the 15th and 17th chapters of Ezekiel. 

Sometimes, biblical history is used as an allegorical illustration. Check out Galatians 4:22-31. The Apostle Paul comes right out and says, in v. 24, that he’s pointing out an allegory in the Old Testament. Although the events he refers to in Genesis 16 and 21 are historical, they also illustrate a spiritual reality. 

In another case, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that Israel’s exodus from Egypt serves as an example to those who follow Christ. Old Testament history is both fact and illustration.

It’s not just God’s word that’s full of that sort of thing; so is God’s world. How about the metamorphosis of a grotesque, crawling caterpillar into a delicate, airborne butterfly? The process pictures the death of our sinful flesh and the emergence of a perfect spiritual body in the resurrection. Or how about the falling of a seed to the ground to die, later to emerge as a fruitful plant? Great allegorical performance art enacted continually on the stage of the world.

One of my favorites is the sunrise, which portrays the return of Christ (Malachi 4:2). Did you ever stop to think that at every moment of every day, the sun is rising somewhere on this earth in declaration of the coming of the King?

Obviously, then, allegory doesn’t have to be fiction—something real can portray something else that’s equally real but on a different plane.

What does all this have to do with the Gateway to Gannah series? Gannah is pure fiction: the planet, its people, and all the events described exist only in the imagination. These fictitious things do, however, illustrate actual traits and motives of human nature as well as scriptural realities: the universal power and authority of God (portrayed in the first book, The Story in the Stars), the reliability of the scriptures above human tradition or personal experience (Words in the Wind), and the fact that our Savior’s self-sacrifice demands a response on our part (Ransom in the Rock).

So is the Gateway to Gannah an allegory? I’m not sure. Maybe you should read it and decide for yourself.

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.

And The Borrowed Book will give you a chance to win a free copy of Book 1 in the series this Friday. See ya then!

The Story in the Stars was a Carol Award finalist in 2012. The adventure continues with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock and will conclude with The Last Toqeph, scheduled for release in the fall of 2014.

Yvonne lives in Western Maryland with her husband of almost forty years and shares the occasional wise word on her personal site, YsWords. She’s been with The Borrowed Book blog for a year or two now and has coordinated Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest for unpublished novelists since the beginning of time. (Or at least, since the contest’s inception.) You may connect with her on Twitter or FacebookOh, yeah: she also does freelance editing. 


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