Allegory vs Parable: What Are the Differences?

Are you wondering about the difference between an allegory vs parable? If so, take a look at some helpful information below! 

There are a lot of stylistic devices that are used in literature. Two examples are allegories and parables. Both tools are used to help someone present important messages, key lessons, and linguistic tools. Even though many people believe an allegory and a parable or the same thing, there are actually some major differences. 

An allegory is usually an image, poem, or story whose interpretation can communicate a hidden meaning. In contrast, a parable is a simple story that is used to illustrate moral or spiritual lessons.

What are a few examples of allegories and parables in literature?

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An Overview of an Allegory

Allegory vs parable what are the differences?

Allegories are specific works that can be interpreted to have a hidden meaning. They commonly show up and images, poems, and stories. Allegories often communicate political or moral messages upon deeper analysis. With an in-depth interpretation of a story, a concealed lesson may appear.

There are several common characteristics of allegories. These include: 

  • An allegory is a short story or prose that can be read on a metaphorical level.
  • Allegories are often used by religious writers to teach principles of faith.
  • Ethical writers commonly use allegories in order to communicate certain morals.
  • Satirists can often use allegories to communicate political or social messages.
Allegory vs Parable
A specific moral to the story may be communicated allegorically

For example, there may be a specific moral to the story that is communicated allegorically. For example, specific events or characters could be used to communicate hidden messages. 

Allegorical meanings are often analyzed in English class, particularly in works such as Animal Farm by George Orwell.

In Animal Farm, Orwell communicates a political allegory revolving around the Russian Revolution of 1917 that led to the rise of Communism. He delivers his allegory using animals, breaking them up into different classes of society.

Furthermore, this allegory also brings modern-day slavery to the surface, particularly as politicians entrap weaker members of society in rigid social structures. 

Another powerful allegory is communicated in Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. In this case, the allegory has to do with the Holocaust. The story brings the suffering of Holocaust victims to the surface, demonstrating immense pain and suffering in the writing. 

These are just a few examples of allegories seen in famous works of literature. This is a common tool that is used to communicate hidden meanings that fall into a variety of categories.

Often, these lessons are communicated in the form of a metaphor. Other literary works with powerful allegories include The Good Samaritan and The Scarlet Letter.

An Overview of a Parable

A parable is a simple story that is commonly used to illustrate spiritual and moral lessons. For example, Jesus communicates parables through stories.

There are important parables still communicated by the gospels of the Bible that are relevant today. Jesus Christ commonly used his stories to communicate hidden spiritual lessons. 

There are a few specific characteristics of a parable. These include: 

  • A parable is a simple narrative or short story.
  • This short narrative is used to illustrate a universal truth.
  • Usually, there is a character who faces a challenging moral dilemma in the story. Or, the character may have made a bad decision. As a result, the character suffers severe consequences that may have been unforeseen or unintentional.
  • Usually, a parable expresses abstract points of argument through concrete narratives in the story.

A parable is a powerful literary device that uses human characters to communicate a moral lesson. Found throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, there are numerous examples of parables in the Bible that are used to communicate a spiritual lesson.

Human beings commonly come into conflict with the forces of nature, placing the main characters in a difficult position. 

The Parables of Jesus are scattered throughout the Bible. Examples include the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Yeast, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

The Differences Between Allegories and Parables

There are several major differences between allegories and parables. A few examples include: 

  • An allegory is a broad literary device. It is used as a metaphor and sends a broader message about morals to the reader. In contrast, a parable is usually shorter, brief, and direct. The meaning of a parable is not usually hidden.
  • An allegory commonly uses the forces of nature, inanimate objects, plants, and characters to tell a story. In contrast, human characters directly communicate the moral lesson in a parable.
  • Parables are usually closely associated with religious works. Allegories are not necessarily limited to religion.

Both allegories and parables are powerful literary tools that are used to communicate important messages and meanings.

Final Word on Allegory vs Parable

There are a variety of literary tools scattered throughout some of the most important books, stories, and narratives of human history.

An allegory is a hidden meaning that is usually communicated across an entire story. In contrast, a parable is usually more direct, using a human character to communicate a powerful moral lesson. A parable is usually associated with a religious work while an allegory is used across multiple genres.

Both allegories and parables are used to communicate important messages about human nature, society, and morals. Some of the most famous literary works are filled with allegories and parables. 

FAQs About Allegory vs Parable

What is the difference between a parable and a fable? 

Parables are distinct, didactic stories that use human characters to communicate important moral lessons. In contrast, a fable, such as Aesop’s Fables, employ inanimate things, plants, animals, and forces of nature as characters.

Are The Parables of Jesus allegories? 

Many medieval writers interpreted The Parables of Jesus as allegories. There were important symbolic correspondences in each element of his parables. Today, most of Jesus's parables are intended to make a single important moral point. Therefore, they are usually looked at as parables instead of allegories in the modern era.

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