13 Symbolism Assignment

Listen to a reading by the author of the poem “Alley” (or read it below) and think of possible meanings. Maybe list some of the major images.

1. Find at least 3 items that could be symbolic.

A symbol means what it actually is… and more.

For example, a cross or a crucifix is a piece of metal shaped like the letter T. But it obviously has more meaning. It can stand for Christianity, Jesus, suffering, or countless other concepts.

When explaining a symbol, be sure to tell how it relates to the poem. How does the symbol add meaning to the piece?

2. Are there enough symbols in the poem to create an allegory?

An allegory is a narrative with a series of symbols. Each symbol stands for something specific, almost like a code.

Is there enough “story” in this poem to make it a narrative? How would uncovering an allegory in this poem help reveal the meaning?


by Tom Chester (May 2000)

There are alleys in my neighborhood
About a century old.
They are cinders and stone.
Around the fringes so little grows.
Find sparse tufts of weeds.
Their hearts are sinew,
Pale with rock dust–
Pioneers stuck on badlands.

Take the alley.
Hide in the narrow memories of tarpaper.
Rest in velvet bench seats
Of big bodied Chevys
Like innocent, rounded pin-up girls.
Look away from chiseled front doors
Extra-green manicured lawns
White crisp siding
And smooth blacktop drives.

In my alley
I found an arm
Of a child’s doll like a cherub-
Dirty and broken, fallen to earth.
I found soiled lace and feathers too
In an oil can drum
Not far from view.

In my alley
Even angels hide
When their hearts aren’t pure enough to fly
On the right side
Where the brethren don’t want them
Round back of the house.

Take the alley
A shortcut for some
Who embrace the seedy, forgotten race.
I jump the fence in my alley.
I know my place.
I travel with broken angels by night.
I hide in the day and stay out of sight.


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Introduction to Literature Copyright © by William Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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