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Difference between Motifs and Symbols

Difference between Motifs and Symbols

When you’re reading a book or watching a movie, it’s important to be able to distinguish between the different symbols and motifs that the author or director is using. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what the difference is between these two terms, and give some examples of each. By understanding the difference, you’ll be better equipped to analyze the meaning behind the symbols and motifs in your favorite works of art!

What is the Motif?

A motif is a recurring image, idea, or symbol that helps to unify a work of literature. Motifs can take many forms, such as a character’s repeated actions, the appearance of certain objects, or the use of particular words or phrases. In some cases, a motif can be subtle and easy to miss; in others, it can be highly conspicuous and immediately apparent. Regardless of its form or level of prominence, however, a motif typically serves to reinforce the work’s central themes and ideas.

For instance, the Motif of water is often used to represent rebirth or the cleansing away of sin. As such, it is not surprising to find Motifs of water in many works that deal with redemption or self-discovery. In The Catcher in the Rye, for example, Holden Caulfield is repeatedly drawn to bodies of water even though he cannot swim. These Motifs help to underscore Holden’s own journey toward maturity and understanding.

What is Symbol?

  • A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is regarded as representing something else, especially a material object, an activity, a quality, or an idea. The symbol comes from the Latin word symbolism, which means “token, watchword.” It first appears in English in the early 14th century as a literal translation of the French symbol. In ancient Greece and Rome, a symbol was an object used to stand for something else, such as an event or a person. For example, a spear might be used to represent military power.
  • In medieval Europe, heraldic devices were used as symbols to represent families or individuals. In certain religions, specific objects are symbols used as symbols of the faith. The crucifix, for instance, is Symbol used by Catholics Symbolto Symbol signify Symbolthe Symbol sacrifices Symbolmade Symbolby SymbolJesus Christ. The term Symbol can also refer to anything that stands for something else; for example, red might be seen as a symbol of danger.
  • In literature and film, symbols are often used to represent ideas or qualities. A rose might Symbolize Symboltrue love; darkness might represent evil. In dream interpretation, symbols are often used to represent feelings or emotions that the dreamer experiences.

Difference between Motifs and Symbols

Motifs and symbols are often used interchangeably in literary analysis, but, while they both serve to reinforce the themes of work, they function in different ways. Motifs are recurring elements that contribute to the development of a work’s themes. They may be visual, like the color red in “The Great Gatsby,” which is associated with both blood and passion, or auditory, like the sound of waves in “Moby-Dick,” which symbolizes the vastness of the ocean.

Symbols, on the other hand, are objects or characters that come to represent something larger than themselves. In “The Scarlet Letter,” for example, the scarlet letter itself is a symbol of Hester Prynne’s shame and sin. Similarly, in “The Lord of the Rings,” the Ring represents power and its corrupting influence. While motifs help to develop themes, symbols typically serve to represent them.


Symbols are more concrete and easier to understand than motifs. However, it is important to note that symbols can also have multiple meanings. While motifs are often open to interpretation, they can be more emotionally resonant with customers. If you’re looking for a way to add some depth or emotionality to your branding, consider using motifs in your designs.

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