Symbolism can be a powerful tool in literature. It can convey the author or character’s subconscious mind’s desires and fears. It can be a subtle way to relay a socio-political statement. Normally, symbolism is featured more in literary fiction rather then genre fiction, but there are exceptions. For example it has been said that the zombies in the George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead are political symbolism for the so called silent majority.
But sometimes blue curtains are simply that, blue curtains. Nothing more or less.
Yet there are always those that dig too deeply into things that aren’t symbolism. As if to be valid writing everything must have symbolism. I experienced this in college with a professor that insisted that lyrics in ‘Not to touch the earth’ by the Doors was about women’s menstrual cycles (I still haven’t figured that one out.) One other time I was involved in a critique group and my story about a group of gold miners was up for review. One individual in particular subscribed to the belief that the scenes that took place in the mine was actually a metaphor for the subconscious mind. Now, the story in question was a pulp fiction-esque short about zombies and gold miners. It was sheer escapism literature. I just wanted to yell, ‘They’re underground cause they’re fucking miners, and that’s where you mine…under-fucking-ground!’ To attribute symbolism where there is none, is a disservice to the author.
I’m all for symbolism in literature, and other forms of Art. Hell, one of my personal favorite painters is Salvador Dali. His work has enough symbolism to choke a horse. But I think symbolism or the lack of it doesn’t automatically deem something as being good or bad. All Art (by this I mean all forms of creative expression) has value regardless of the creator’s intentions while creating it. But it is the duty of the creator to convey those intentions thoroughly through both the artistry and craftsmanship of their chosen medium. And it’s the responsibility of the audience of the creator’s work to comprehend and recognize those intentions rather then transplant their own agendas and biases onto the work.