Monday, June 21, 2010

The Accidental Allegory

I took a writing course where I inadvertantly wrote a short story around an allegory. I received praise for the allegory even though the use was unintentional. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe not with an allegory, but perhaps with another writing tool?

Most of all my writing ability comes from just sitting down and writing. The path I chose made it difficult for me to afford college so long-distance writing courses had to suffice, even though the stamps could sometimes be a stretch for my budget. Back then, online classes were not really popular; that was still back when AOL was essential but expensive and dial-up wasn't so bad if you could afford to do that.

Back to the allegory.

I called the short story THE FAMILY TREE. It was a simple story about the rubber tree plant my mom received as a gift when I was born. The plant was important to my dad, as were all the indoor plants. He would become frustrated every time a plant died and wondered why nobody else wanted to water and care for the plants. I didn't have any value for the rubber tree plant, or for any of the indoor plants, so I wasn't going to be responsible for them.

I guess I didn't really have a choice in the matter though. My dad had me watering the rubber tree plant and polishing it's big beautiful leaves by dabbing a paper towel in milk. He said it made the leaves shine. Perhaps.

When I was fifteen my parents divorced. That was unexpected news. It forced my mom and I to move from California back to Utah. My mom and I packed everything. My dad's stuff was labeled and then he picked it up in Utah.

Between the time I was born and my parent's divorce, the rubber tree plant had moved from Utah to Nevada and then back to Utah six months later; from Utah to Helendale, CA; and from Helendale, CA to Hesperia, CA.

In Hesperia, the rubber tree plant started to wane. A chore that once annoyed me became sentimental. When my dad was nowhere around I watered the plant. It didn't help. As the divorce news sank in, the rubber tree plant started to lose it's leaves. I would water, and then pick up fallen leaves.

By the time the last box was taped up and labeled, the rubber tree plant was nothing but a stick. We left California without the rubber tree plant and moved back to Utah where we moved around a few times before settling.

The life of that rubber tree plant is true, but it apparently is also an allegory for the way my family was falling apart at the time.

When I wrote the story I wanted to show the relation between the rubber tree plant and my parent's divorce but I didn't know that what I had done was create an allegory.

Have you ever used an allegory in your stories?

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