Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Sacrifice

Every day we encounter objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. Writers can use this to our advantage when we plant symbols in the reader's path that reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, 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:
  • An animal giving its life to protect its young from attack
  • the male emperor penguin: withstands brutal polar storms for four months and loses half its body weight while caring for its egg
  • Dolphins: when a pregnant dolphin goes into labor, the rest of the dolphins put themselves at risk by surrounding her to protect her from sharks while she gives birth
  • Spiders: In some species, the mother will surrender her body to her hatchlings to be eaten. The process is called matriphagy.

In Society:
A cross/crucifix
Giving a child up for adoption
Being a surrogate mother for no financial gain
A parent going without so their child can succeed
Donating an organ
Donating blood
Delayed gratification
Military medals
Remembrance/Veteran's Day
Military graves

Mother Teresa
Oskar Schindler
William Wallace
Giving school lunch to someone with none
Offering coat to someone who is cold
Volunteer work
Poppy pins

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with
Sacrifice. Some are more powerful than others. An ancient altar is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a Medal of Honor might stand for a number of different things (courage, brotherhood, loyalty) and may not exemplify sacrifice on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.


Deb Salisbury said...

Great post!

I hadn't heard of matriphagy before. Shudder!

Elaine AM Smith said...

Thank you! My MG had a symbol and I didn't even notice! I'll go up the ante on my symbolism :)

Bish Denham said...

The male praying mantis sacrifies his life to mate with a female.

A century plant grows for years and years, blooms once, and then dies.

Jessica Subject said...

Welcome back Becca! Great post. Going to need to get on Twitter so I can put via @(yourtwittername) :)

Beth said...

I can always count on you for great writing ideas. I'll be bookmarking this one. Thanks!

Colene Murphy said...

Awesome advice and neat nature facts I didn't know! Great post!

Joanna St. James said...

I did not know that about the Dolphins that is very brave.

Ann said...

Very helpful, thank you.

Angela Ackerman said...

Becca, you did a great job on this. I've wanted to do sacrifice for a long time now but couldn't figure out the 'nature' aspect of it. YOU RAWK!


Matthew Rush said...

I completely agree with Angela's comment. I love how you tied this in with themes in nature, especially since both nature and sacrifice are both such beautiful, yet fragile things. Well done!

And nice ta meet ya Becca (I can't believe I haven't noticed your name on here before, sorry)!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss becca! that was a pretty cool post. i didnt ever think much on symbols on sacrifice for my writing. i got a file of neat stuff for writing and im gonna put this in it.
...smiles from lenny

Heather said...

What a perfect day for this post, and a perfect execution. Beautifully done!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

What a wonderful topic, Angela - and perfect for Veteran's Day. Another winner! :-)

Becca Puglisi said...

Well, I must be honest (darnit) and admit that posting this on Veteran's Day was a complete coincidence. Glad it worked out that way, though!

Jan Markley said...

Wow, amazing list. Just don't ask me to give up chai tea and sour ju jubes! Just saying ...

KristywithaK said...

Fantastic post, will definitely come in handy! Thanks :)

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks for the add, Bish! And thanks everyone for their comments! :)

Mary Witzl said...

Matriphagy...yuck! And to think I felt hard done by when my kids ate the last piece of cake or used my skirt as their own personal hand towel.