Authors on Consciously or Subconsciously Planting Symbolism in their Work

Gathered from the Internet, mostly in response to surveys sent by Bruce McAllister as recounted here: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/12/05/document-the-symbolism-survey/
  1. Ernest Hemingway
    "No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things."
  2. Henry Roth [1]
    "Any—certainly modern—writer recognizes when his own work, narrative or dramatic, becomes evocative of a symbol; serious writing does have that effect on the writer, even though his attention may be centered elsewhere: in the narrative, in the situation, the character, the language. Speaking for myself, the symbol when it does make itself manifest is, or was, secondary to my main attempt: the construction of a unified, autonomous piece of writing."
  3. Henry Roth [2]
    "The Greeks, Elizabethans, Cervantes, they seemed more interested in creating a type of what existed rather than symbols of abstract ideas, forces, beliefs."
  4. Iris Murdoch
    "There is much more symbolism in ordinary life than some critics seem to realize."
  5. Isaac Asimov
    "Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?"
  6. Jack Kerouac
    "Symbolism is alright in 'fiction' but I tell true life stories simply about what happened to people I know."
  7. John Updike
    "I have no method. There *is* no method in writing fiction. You don't seem to understand."
  8. Joseph Heller
    "I do not subconsciously place symbolism in my writing, although there are inevitably many occasions when events acquire a meaning additional to the one originally intended."
  9. Mary McCarthy [1]
    "If the story does not contradict the outline, overrun the pattern, break the symbols, like an insurrection against authority, it is surely a still birth. The natural symbolism of reality has more messages to communicate than the dry Morse code of the disengaged mind."
  10. Mary McCarthy [2]
    "At the very moment when American writing was penetrated by the symbolic urge, it ceased to be able to create symbols of its own…The discovery of new symbols is not the only function of a writer. But the writer who cares about this must be fascinated by reality itself, as a butterfly collector is fascinated by the glimpse of a new specimen." http://www.en.utexas.edu/Classes/Bremen/e316k/316kprivate/scans/mccarthy.html
  11. Norman Mailer
    "Generally, the best symbols in a novel are those you become aware of only after you finish the work."
  12. Ralph Ellison
    "Man is a symbol-making and -using animal. Language itself is a symbolic form of communication. The great writers all used symbols as a means of controlling the form of their fiction. Some placed it there subconsciously, discovered it and then developed it. Other started out consciously aware and in some instances shaped the fiction to the symbols."
  13. Ray Bradbury
    "Playing around with symbols…can be a kind of kiddish parlor game. A little of it goes a long way. There are other things of greater value in any novel or story: humanity, character analysis, truth on other levels, etc., etc. Good symbolism should be as natural as breathing, and as unobtrusive."
  14. Richard Hughes
    "Have you ever considered the extent to which subconscious symbol-making is part of the process of *reading*, quite distinct from its part in *writing*? … The same is true of our daily conversations—in fact, of everything we think and say and do."
  15. Saul Bellows
    "A 'symbol' grows in its own way, out of the facts."
  16. William Melvin Kelley
    "Holden Caulfield is a person, but enough of us felt that we were like him to make him a symbol. But if he'd been a symbol, Salinger would have been an unknown writer living in Vermont."