“Parable” vs “Allegory”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

If you’re a Christian, the word parable won’t be a new one. In fact, all through the bible, parables are mentioned in the gospels.

Allegories, on the other hand, are commonly used by writers whose stories or pieces depict meanings that the reader is meant to deduce. 

Do you know how to use parables vs allegory in your piece of writing? We have dealt extensively with them in this article.  

What is a Parable?

A parable is a simple story told by someone who teaches spiritual or moral lessons. It is commonly used in religious books such as the Bible. 

The Bible has many gospels with hidden spiritual lessons known as parables.  Parables can teach people about compassion, empathy, and the right choices.

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How to Identify a Parable

These are the characteristics of parables that differentiate it from allegory.

It has a brief and simple story.

It depicts a moral or spiritual message.

Parable centers on a character who is dealing with a moral dilemma or who made a poor choice and is now paying the price for it.

It uses argumentation and narrative to convey an abstract point of view.

What is an Allegory?

An allegory is a work of art that is often interpreted to have a hidden meaning, usually of moral importance. Under deep scrutiny, it often communicates political or moral messages. 

You can find allegories in images, poems, and stories.

In fiction, it usually involves characters, settings, and events that have a hidden meaning and can represent other issues.  You’ll find a concealed lesson when you get an in-depth interpretation of the story. 

See also: When to Use “Passed” vs “Past”: Definitions and Examples

How to Identify an Allegory

These are the characteristics of allegories;

It is a prose or short story that has symbolic meaning.

Allegories are a common tool used by religious writers to teach faith principles.

Ethical writers commonly use allegories to convey moral lessons.

Allegories are a useful tool for socialists to spread social and political messages.

Examples of Allegory

The allegory of the cave by Plato

The Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop

Examples of a Parable

The Good Samaritan

Jesus tells this parable in Luke 10:30–37. A Jewish traveler is attacked and left for dead. Despite the hostilities that existed at the time between Jews and Samaritans, a Samaritan rescues him while most people ignore him. The story’s lesson is to love everyone, even if they are your adversaries. Those days, helping others is referred to as being a “good Samaritan.”

The Prodigal Son 

There is a guy in this parable who has two sons. The youngest son begs for his share of the inheritance, squanders it, and goes without. Then he goes back to see his father and requests a job as a servant. The younger son is shunned by his older brother, but the father accepts him back with open arms and offers forgiveness. The Prodigal Son is saved by his father’s love. 

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Parables vs Allegory: Difference Between Parables and Allegories 

Allegories are a common literary device. It’s a metaphor that carries a more general moral meaning. A parable is more succinct, straightforward, and short. A parable’s meaning is always clear to see. 

An allegory tells a story through the use of characters, inanimate objects, plants, and natural forces. In a parable, on the other hand, human characters convey the moral lesson directly. 

Parables are usually connected to religious texts. Religious allegories are not the only kind that exist. They are found in political and moral texts.

To itemize these differences;

Parables and allegories are different in length and complexity, symbolism, and message. 

Parables are short, straightforward stories. Allegories, on the other hand, are more complex and can take the form of a book, poem, or even a movie.

Symbolism: In an allegory, the characters and events in the story have a hidden meaning. Parables have a clear moral lesson. 

Message: Both allegories and parables are used in literature to pass important messages. Allegories have hidden messages while parables are clear messages.

Parable vs Allegory: How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

How to Use Parables Correctly as a Writer

Identify a clear moral lesson: Make sure you come up with a message the parable will pass before you begin writing.

Create relatable characters and setting: We know that parables can be short, however, ensure the characters are relatable. It will help the reader connect with the story and its moral lesson. 

Use vivid language: Don’t be afraid to use figurative language to bring your parable to life. This will make it more engaging for your readers.

Keep it simple:  A parable should be easy to understand, and the moral lesson should be clear.

How to Use Allegory Correctly as a Writer 

Develop a compelling story 

Allegory is a good medium to communicate a message, but the story has to be compelling. Make sure it has a developed plot, interesting characters, and a satisfying resolution.

Subtlety is key

In an allegory, subtly guide your readers to the message you are trying to convey. Allow them to discover the meaning of the allegory on their own.

Use symbolism effectively

Symbolism is an integral part of allegory. The characters, setting, and events in your story should all have symbolic meaning that relates to your hidden message. Just don’t overdo it. 

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Parables vs allegory has been thoroughly explained in this article. We hope this guide has been helpful.