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Symbolism of Pomegranates in Literature


Authors often use food, especially fruits, to symbolize character traits, themes and values in literature. Pomegranates are a lush fruit that grows in warm, dry climates, such as India, Mexico and the Middle East. They have an ordinary outer peeling, similar to an orange, but the inside has a bright red color and is packed with little round seeds. The visually stunning flesh of pomegranates makes them a powerful symbol of life, love and vitality.

Friendship and Loyalty

Pomegranates symbolize friendship, loyalty and youth. In "The Kite Runner," written by Khaled Hosseini and published in 2003, the two main characters, Amir and Hassan, play together near a pomegranate tree and carve their names in the bark. The tree is located in a cemetery but represents life, playfulness and energy, amid the darker surroundings. Later in the story, after Afghanistan is devastated by two wars and Hassan dies, Amir returns to the tree to find that it has withered and dried up.

Innocence and Purity

Authors use pomegranates to represent innocence, beauty, vitality and purity. In William Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet," a bird perches on a pomegranate tree outside Juliet's window after she and Romeo consummate their marriage. The two lovers discuss the depth and purity of their love, despite the criticism of their forbidden relationship. The ripe red color of pomegranates helps readers visualize the passionate connection the two young lovers share.

Success and Power

The use of pomegranates in literature dates back to the Old Testament section of the Bible and represents wealth, prestige and comfort. When the Israelites left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness, they complained that the barren land didn't have pomegranates and other tasty fruits. Images of pomegranates were engraved on important landmarks, such as King Solomon's temple, and were often hand-stitched on the trim of the priestly robes. Pomegranates symbolized goodness, success and power. However, when pomegranate trees withered, they symbolized sin and pending destruction.

Nature and Fertility

The Greek myth about Persephone -- a Greek goddess who is kidnapped by Hades -- uses pomegranates to represent nature, fertility and seasonal changes. When Persephone's mother, Demeter, realizes who took her daughter, she becomes a recluse and ceases to make the earth fertile. Hades eventually releases Persephone, but puts a spell on a pomegranate that Persephone eats. The spell forces Persephone to return to the underworld for three months every year. Demeter makes the land barren for those three months -- the infertile months of winter.

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