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Allegory in Painting and Human Consciousness


Typically, a symbol is something tangible that embodies or represents something else, commonly an impalpable concept or idea. A symbol can be an activity, a thing, a sound, or a movement—it has to be seen, done, felt, touched, heard, or tasted (Sperber 1975, p.109).  Conviction of something tangible used as a symbol is normally pretty equivocal, but there may be hints, which include frequent usage within the context of some work of art, or its presence at a critical moment, or at an important place, such as in the beginning and/or the conclusion may be hints to take note to the suggested level of significance. Allegory in painting is a useful medium to increase consciousness among people (Marciniak 2006, p.117), which is the main aim of the proposed study.

Study Questions

To substantiate that allegory in painting is a very useful media to increase consciousness among people, the researcher will seek to answer these questions:

i. What is allegory painting?

ii. What is the difference between allegory painting and ordinary images?

iii. How is human consciousness enhanced?

iv. How does allegory painting influence of affect consciousness among people?

v. Does allegory painting actually increase consciousness among people?


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vi. How can the use of allegory painting be enhanced to increase consciousness among people?

Literature Review

An allegory is a tangible representation of an idea or theory in a direct, one-to-one liaison, without ant ambiguity at this level. There is a clear understanding of each allegorical component. For instance, in “Young Goodman Brown,” the name of Goodman Brown’s wife is Faith. Faith, the character, represents faith the concept, in a definite relationship. In this instance, Faith’s character is an allegorical factor of the story, as opposed to a symbolic element of the same story. In others cases, an allegory is a painting or an actual image or painting, having the same impact as the “faith” concept in “Young Goodman Brown” (Hawthorne 1996). Therefore, allegory is the presentment of a specific intangible concept by an image or drawing (Whitman 2000, p.304; Teskey 1996, p.56). Sewing in this statement with the purpose of this proposed study, allegory in painting helps to increase consciousness among people—it actualizes immaterial concepts (Pensky 1993, p.180; Owens & Bryson 1992, p.77). This is actually true since an allegory gives just one meaning, where the relationship between the image and the concept is demonstrated by correlation or adjacency—for instance, a heart is the allegory of love.

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To demonstrate that allegory in painting is a very useful media to increase consciousness among people, artists have used allegory and symbolism since the beginning of time (Barney 1979). This has been mainly because symbols are typically used to epitomize or refer to an intellectual concept, rather than a literal meaning, leading to a comprehensive interpretation of the meant ideas. As noted by Sigmund Freud, “symbols are not the creations of mind, but rather are distinct capacities within the mind to hold a distinct piece of information” (Papanier 2009, p.41). As the human mind decodes allegories in painting, it finds means to relate the human’s own ideas with the painting that are used—this is where the issue of consciousness sets in. People’s initial reaction comes from the basic information of the painting, as well as if people take time to experience and understand the entire story an allegory painting, which awakens those people’s imaginations, or consciousness. This brings about the physical feeling of emotion while appreciating the allegory painting.  It is people’s imagination that allows them to relate with objects in the painting, lading to people’s emotional response and aroused consciousness.

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Study Methodology

The research design refers to the chosen way of handling and evaluating the selected data and is generally either quantitative or qualitative (Yin, 2003).  A qualitative approach draws conclusions from non-quantifiable sources, such as attitudes, values, or perceptions (Yin, 2003).  Qualitative methods allow the possibility of gathering information and investigating several variables from the perspective of a few participants, thereby providing the ability to gain deeper understanding of the studied area (Yin, 2003).  The approach for the proposed study will be qualitative to get a deeper understanding that allegory in painting is a very useful medium to increase consciousness among people.  The focus of the study will be on obtaining a more detailed report and drawing conclusions from the findings.

Following the pattern-matching approach before the actual research, the researcher will develop hypotheses before developing several pieces of information from the exploration, in relation to the hypotheses. In addition, the researcher will incorporate the following elements in the qualitative research design for the exploration of whether allegory in painting is a useful medium to increase consciousness among people—research questions; scope of Study; unit of analysis; selection of a case; data collection; method of analysis, and; tests for design quality.

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Study Sample

The researcher will interview 30 students whom would have interacted with allegories and allegory paintings. Half (15) of the respondents will be male students, while the other half will be female students, 10 in undergraduate program, 15 in Master’s program and  five under the doctorate program. The researcher will also ensure that respondents are representative of various cultures and geographic diversity.

Data Collection

In studying this area, the researcher will use semi-structured interviews as the data collection method. The semi-structured interview is widely the most common form of interviewing, probably why the researcher became aware of it.  The method will involve the researcher working as an interviewer following a set of already prepared set of questions, but plans the interview to be colloquial or conversational. To successively use the semi-structured interview to collect data collection, the researcher intends to:

  • Listen carefully to the interviewee;
  • Ensure that questions are short, direct and clear;
  • Remain neutral through the interview;
  • Enjoy the interview to make the interviewee comfortable in answering questions;
  • Use probes and prompts to obtain as much information as possible, and;
  • Take an entire record of the interview, either by audio-recording or transcription.

On the interviewing day, the researcher will follow the following steps:

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i. Introduce oneself as a researcher;

ii. Warm up the interviewee by asking some easy, friendly questions at the beginning to make the interviewee feel comfortable;

iii. Drive the interview logically;

iv. Ask a few straightforward questions at the end the interview to calm the interviewee, and;

v. Eventually show gratitude and bid the interviewee goodbye.

Data Analysis and Presentation of Results

The researcher recognizes the fact that most methodologies of qualitative data analysis tend to partly share the same analytic processes. These processes involve what the researcher will follow for this study, as follows:

i. After collecting data, the first step of analysis will be going through it (the data);

ii. Then reading the data and annotating it, and;

iii. Finally, identifying specific items of interest.

These three steps are typically known as coding, and by them, the first major analytic phase for the researcher will involve coding the data—or simply, following through the three steps. Through the coding process, the researcher will define what the collected data are all about. To present the collected and analyzed data, the researcher will use tables and graphs. However, the two most significant means will be quotations and statements from the semi-structured interviews. Wherever the researcher will directly quote the source, especially from interviews, the “” marks will be used.

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Limitations of the Proposed Study

It is not always easy to create an allegory painting that a standard meaning to people from various backgrounds. Therefore, the researcher will rely on using the most commonly identified allegory painting to find out if allegory in painting is a useful medium to increase consciousness among people. However, there is a likelihood of one pitfall with this limitation; respondents may tend to give the same opinion regardless of what they actually imagine as they explore specific allegory paintings.

Study Timetable

The researcher intends to carry on this study for a period of [state], between [state] and [state]. However, this is likely to change depending on the availability of respondents and appropriate research tools.



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