So I finally conquered my (rational) fear of e-books and my (irrational) aversion to self-published works. With this new world of possibilities open, I started with a short story called Skies of Dripping Gold by Hannah Heath (who happens to be an awesome blogger).
There’s a lot packed into this little story- most of it good. One thing that really stuck out to me was its allegorical aspects. Before getting into that, though, I’ll give my non-spoiler thoughts.
Skies of Dripping Gold is pretty short, but there’s a lot of meaning in it. It deals with the question of how pain can exist along with a loving God, and doesn’t give a clear answer. Without going into detail, I’ll also say that it doesn’t try to tack on a happy ending, while still leaving room for hope. You can read the summary (and buy the story!) on Amazon.
Although parts of the story were a little overwritten (the prose could be pretty purple), other descriptions were unique and beautiful. One of my favorites was when Gabriel took his sick sister, Lilly, to see a flower.
The quiet, sweet way she said this last sentence, and the image of her frail body next to the vibrant living flower next to her, tore Gabriel’s heart from his chest. It burst into bleeding fragments at her feet, but she didn’t notice, instead staring up into the dirty clouds where she imagined her God to sit.
I also think this story suffered from too much worldbuilding. This issue is complicated, because it was all needed for the story (the money system, the Poison, the towers in each city, the growing lack of travel between cities). It was done well- most things were shown in the story rather than explained- but it ended up with the world feeling too big for the personal, character-driven story.
Now about the allegorical parts of Skies of Dripping Gold. (Spoilers from here on)
Gabriel decides to get to the top of a tower (which is really more like a mile-high pillar, to my understanding), where Paradise is said to be. He can’t take the elevator- that requires faith- so he has to climb. He needs to make sure that, if there is a Paradise, it’s worthy of Lilly.
As he’s climbing, the elevator zooms by. When he finally reaches the top, exhausted and hurting, he finds that the place is bare, just rocks and dust. No one else is there, even though the elevator had passed him. When he finally returns to the ground, battered physically and emotionally, he realizes Lilly is gone. She had taken the elevator, even though he didn’t see her on top. She had gone somewhere else.
The allegory here is great. It gives a very physical representation of someone trying to reach Paradise through works rather than through faith. Gabriel tries to follow the same path as a faith-filled Christian; he tries to power his way to Paradise. From an outside perspective, he travels the same direction, with considerably more effort, as one who relies on faith by taking the elevator. But only the elevator leads to Paradise, while the climb leads to emptiness and despair.
I see allegories used much less than other symbolic tools in stories. Part of this is probably because they take up so much of the story- unlike symbols or motifs, they don’t just pop up now and again, they’re always at work.
But that is why they can be so powerful. Because they are such a part of the story, they can’t be overlooked or dismissed without dismissing the story itself. And if the story is well-written, it will be very hard to simply dismiss.
Don’t be afraid to work an allegory into your story. It’s an often overlooked tool that, when wielded effectively, can give your story a lasting impact.
What are some of your favorite allegories?