The word symbol derives from the Greek verb symballein-to throw together, and its noun symbolon-mark, emblem, token or sign. It is an object, which represents or stands for something else. Symbolism is a relatively straight forward concept on its surface. Is a visible object or action that suggests some further meaning in addition to itself, it is the most ancient and fundamental method of expression.
First of all, let us say that at the level of archaic societies, symbolism is, or at least was a religious symbolism. Symbols reveal a modality of the real or a deep structure of the world, and in the spiritual horizon of primitive man, the real mingles with the sacred and the world is considered the creation of gods. According to Professor Whitehead a symbol certainly, means something presented to the senses or the imagination usually to the sense which stands for something else. Symbolism in that way runs through the whole of life. Every moment we are seeing objects or hearing sounds or smelling smells which bring to our minds words, for instance, as spoken or written sings. And if symbolism thus runs trough life as a whole, it is a factor of the first importance in religion. I think his study of symbolism expresses a common human experience. "Every activity is basic symbolism. The universe is constantly trying to reach us to say something or teach something, but we are rejecting it all the time." says Chogyam Trungpa. He also says that symbolism doesn't have to be poetic, or spiritual, or mystical; it is the ordinary truth that takes place in everyday life. .
The term Symbolism is also a convenient label for literary historians to designate the post-romantic era. According to Griffith, symbolism is offering the reader a concrete object that actually has a broader, more abstract meaning to the story or novel.
Definition can't be achieved without a clarification of the ambiguities. For a term that has come to mean so many things to so many people, equivocations could not have been avoided.