Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Alienation

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

A tree separated by its fellows by a fence or path
The runt of the litter
An animal hanging back from the herd
A pile of pulled weeds
A straggling bird trying to keep up with the flock
An island
A sandbar cut off from the mainland by the tide
An orphaned tree in a farmer's field
A dead flower among fresh blooms
A tree in a planter pot in a mall or on a street among high rises
A lone bull in a field
A penned animal
Pack animals abandoning one of their own due to injury or sickness
A lone animal when the others pair off (ducks, geese, bighorn sheep, etc)
A desert
Impassible canyon
A bird alone on a pond

In Society:

Sitting alone in a crowded cafeteria
A single car in the parking lot
A person sitting alone at the back of a bus
A sign that excludes ("Members only" or "You must be 18 years of age to enter")
Private clubs, societies, group memberships
A kid at a skateboard park with no skateboard
A tent pitched away from the others
A building set apart from the rest
Rules, regulations, permits
Being alone in a crowd
Alcoholism or drug abuse
Obvious poverty
Police tape
Construction barriers
A buoy
A free floating platform or dock
A broken bridge
A no thru road
A jail cell
Hedges, fences
Jeering, rumours, lies
Social cliques
A mother telling her child he's too young to do something
Overhearing a conversation showing racism/bias
Teenage group refusing to make eye contact or acknowledge another
Someone overlooking the street from a tiny apartment balcony
Street people
A homeless shelter
Being the last picked on a team
A child turning up the volume of a TV while a parent speaks
Putting in headphones during a conversation
Walking briskly past a homeless person or panhandler, eyes straight ahead
Refusing to respond when spoken to
Lying about plans to shun another
A stray dog being chased off
Detouring (into a class, store, washroom) to avoid someone
A teacher, parent or employer showing favoritism
Open ridicule of another (a class, at home, work)
A waiting room area
A dog tied up or on a leash while others roam free
Exclusion of an event (after-hours drinks, sleep over, party)
A toddler banished to a play pen or stuck behind a safety gate
A closed or locked door

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Alienation. Some are more powerful than others. A group of animated, laughing teenagers who suddenly go silent at your presence is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single car in a parking lot may not foreshadow alienation on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
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Eric said...

This is a really great list. While your posts are always helpful, this one struck me as being particularly good. Nice job.

L.J. Boldyrev said...

Great list! Loving the symbolism entries :)

Mary Witzl said...

Abandoned shoes and umbrellas always strike me as good alienation symbols (but of course the shoes can't still be in pairs). Anything that usually comes in twos but is all by its lonesome self works too.

And now I feel like getting a hug...

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I wish you could see the wonderful folder of your Thesaurus Entries I'm building. It's becoming one of my favorite writing resources. :-)

C.R. Evers said...

awesome list!

Kelsey said...

Ooh, lovely. I am definitely stealing some of these.

I've been following your blog for a while but haven't commented yet--but these thesauri (thesauruses?) have been infintely helpful. Thanks a bunch for putting them together!

Bish Denham said...

I feel alienated just reading this list! Excellent.

Kelly said...

Great topic, great list!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Those are indeed some lonely-feeling images. Thanks so much for helping me muse on the emotional aspects of imagery.

Lisa and Laura said...

Great list! What a fun way to think of ways to spice up your writing!

Angela said...

Thanks Eric and L.J. I'm glad this entry helps!

Mary, good adds. >>HUG<<

Shannon I'm glad all this information is helping you write!

Thanks C.R.!

Kelsey, nice to see you comment and thanks for letting me know you find the thesaurus collections helpful. ;-)

Bish, great! Wait--is that great? LOL

Thank you Kelly, Tricia and Lisa & Laura. Thanks for popping by!

Lindsey Edwards said...

Such a great post and so true, thanks for getting me thinking!

Anna said...

I find that alienation comes up over and over in my stories, so this post gave me a lot to think about. Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

Your posts are really making me realize how much depth symbolism can add. Thanks!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I am giving you an award on my Sat. post. :-)

Kate said...

I didn't think you could ever surpass your other thesauruses, but this one takes the cake! Brilliant.


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