When a person is asked about the symbolism of butterflies, they will think about purity and rebirth, which is the most popular representation of these beautiful creatures in literature, poetry, and arts. No matter what culture you may research, you will instantly see how people perceive butterflies as the symbol of rebirth, resurrection, and transformation.
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- Literature and Cultures Interpretation of Butterflies
Literature and Cultures Interpretation of Butterflies
Once the presence of a butterfly appears in a short story or a lengthy book, it is always used as the symbol of hope and the deep path from the physical cage of the body to the spiritual flight where one can finally feel free and float beneath the azure skies.
As we turn to classic English literature, the butterflies are often mentioned as the rebirth after death, which may create a negative stigma associated with the loss. In truth, however, a butterfly is the rebirth of the spirit that always remains there as it brings the light of hope as the changes take place.
Two Authors’ Meaning Of Butterflies in Literature
Nathaniel Hawthorne once suggested that our happiness is like a butterfly that is always beyond one’s grasp when pursued, yet it may alight upon you as soon as you sit quietly. Still, one must understand that the transformation cannot happen out of the blue and requires specific work and effort.
As Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” These beautiful words confirm the importance of changes and the work of the spirit as we pursue happiness, explore, and seek solutions to our challenges.
Butterfly Course of Life in Literature
If one started looking for an inanimate object that would symbolize the course of life, the most obvious choice would be the clock. Now, if we seek a living being that goes all the way from the cradle minus the grave, we have an example of the butterfly. There are many examples in literature, like the famous “From Cocoon forth a Butterfly” poem by Emily Dickinson or “Ode to a Butterfly” by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. People have always thought of butterflies as symbols of hope and transformation of the spirit.
Butterfly Literature in Different Cultures
Many Native American stories mention the importance of butterflies as the Elders learned how to communicate through these amazing insects with the powers of nature. Just like the ancient Egyptians, Native American people believe that butterflies symbolize the human soul, which is perfectly reflected in their legends and songs.
Now, let’s turn to Latin culture and its literary works and heroic poetry. The butterflies symbolize the fallen heroes and the influential personalities who have given their lives for freedom and peace.
Persuade by Butterfly Drawings and Words
A slightly different example is a book by Joyce Sidman called “The Girl Who Drew Butterflies”. The importance of this literary work lies in the symbolism of the butterflies as the author tells the story of Maria Merian, who changed science with her art by drawing butterflies. She proved that the egg hatched into caterpillars, eventually becoming butterflies.
Still, her ability to draw butterflies helped the academic community to believe her as she persuaded them with her passion. The strong symbolism and clarity of her spoken and written words and her drawings of the butterfly life cycle contributed to the advancement in entomology.
Butterfly Literature Symbolizing Bravery
There is another interesting book called “Animal Medicine” by Erika Buenaflor. She believes that butterflies symbolize bravery as the brave forces are essential when a person becomes ready for rebirth and a positive transformation. According to the author, butterflies help a person gain confidence and encouragement.
Let’s take a deeper look at the famous works in literature, from William Shakespeare (remember his “gilded butterflies”) to the poetry of the famous rock musician Lenny Kravitz. We can see that no person knows what will come next, just like caterpillars who do not know what will happen. Therefore, we can conclude that butterflies follow their inner call and hope for the best.
Butterflies Represent the Human Soul
Turning to Celtic mythology, we can see that butterflies also represent the human soul. The old Irish people still say, “The butterflies are those souls waiting to pass the way through Purgatory”. It shows how the world’s different nations perceive the butterflies and their course of life as inner and spiritual rebirth. It’s also a reflection of the run of time. As Jane Yolen has said in her historical prose “Prince Across the Water”, a person can only chase the butterfly for so long.
Famous Poem Depicts When Things Get Sad and Gloomy
While the butterflies are almost always portrayed as the bringers of light and hope through their transformation, they are also used to speak of sadness and the lack of freedom. Pavel Friedmann published his famous “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” poem in 1959. As a Czech poet of Jewish origin, Friedmann states that he “never saw another butterfly” as it “was the last one” because “butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto.”
The poem speaks about the author’s experience in the Terezin Concentration Camp and reflects how freedom and transformation have been taken away. As one reads through the lines of the poem, the role of the butterfly quickly changes as the subjects like freedom, hope, and imprisonment are discussed through the lens of hopelessness.
Nevertheless, the butterfly still symbolizes freedom and transformation as it is the last glimpse of hope that the author sees.
It is not surprising that even young readers understand the symbolism of the butterflies as there is impatience for a change and the wishing for changes and rebirth even through the most challenging times. The butterfly serves as a great reminder to every living being that the changes will come and that the sun will shine again, even though there may be a storm that will rage before the calm.