Windows and doors are a practical object, defined as an architectural feature. However, they carry a further meaning. In literature, windows and doors are the threshold of something else: it goes beyond its functionality or appearance and gives a symbol.
Symbolism of windows in literature can vary widely, and their meaning may change depending on the specific narrative and thematic context created by the author. From Emily Bronte to Stephen King, authors used the symbols of windows. Here are a few common symbolic interpretations of windows in literature.
Exploration and escape: windows often represent a pathway to the outside world, symbolizing the human desire for exploration, freedom, and escape from confinement or limitations. They can represent the yearning for new experiences, adventure, and the unknown. Emma Bovary is the fictional character, heroine of the novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. The French windows, described in the book, are the means for her to escape of her bored and unhappy marriage and existence. She often looked out of the windows to examine new romantic avenues she wished to explore.
Spiritual entrance and escape: windows can represent the barriers that book characters face. In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, this classic story about love and jealousy, characters are often blocked by locked windows, symbolizing the damaging effects of revenge; at other times, they’re left open, illustrating a character’s vulnerability. For instance, in one scene Heathcliff opens a window to let Catherine’s ghost in. In another, Nelly leaves the window open to let Heathcliff enter Catherine’s room.
The Great Gatsby
Perception and observation: windows can serve as a metaphor for the act of seeing and observing. They can represent the boundary between the inner and outer worlds, highlighting the importance of perception, self-awareness, and gaining insights into oneself and others. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the windows of Gatsby’s mansion overlooking the parties represent a boundary between the extravagant world of wealth and the mundane reality outside. They symbolize the allure and illusory nature of the American Dream. The windows also serve as a barrier between the spectator and the world on the other side, despite its transparency.
Romeo and Juliet
Connection and communication: in the famous balcony scene, Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, stands beneath Juliet’s window, and they engage in a romantic conversation. The window is the symbol of their connection and yearning for each other despite their families’ feuds.
Portal: windows offer literally and metaphorically a view into another world, perhaps an inner world or a view into your soul. It is also a barrier, a place to view the world but unable to participate. In Stephen King’s novel The Shining, the Overlook Hotel is filled with windows that serve as both physical and symbolic barriers. The windows serve as portals that blur the boundaries between reality and the supernatural, allowing the malevolent presence of the hotel to influence and manipulate Jack’s actions.
Windows have always embodied a strong symbolism in literature. It’s clear and constant that they provide the opportunity to possibilities and images, while also reminding us to keep ourselves contained and safe. It is even stronger in literature as it’s the essence of storytelling.
Furthermore, that symbolism can be subjective, and readers may interpret elements differently based on their own perspectives. Windows in literature offer readers a great number of interpretations.