My debut novel The French Revolution
is an allegory. Since it's probably been a while since you took high school English, you may be mentally fidgeting right now, striving to recall what exactly an allegory is. Dictionary.com
succinctly defines allegory
as a "symbolical narrative," but that fails to capture its key selling point — a core element of magic. My favorite allegories are wondrous, if slightly unbelievable tales in which I let myself be swept away because A) it makes life a lot more fun, and B) the underlying narrative says something insightful about how we live.
The first allegories I was exposed to were Aesop's Fables. They're a little simplistic, but when you're a seven-year-old rambunctious redheaded boy like I was, the tale of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" can really put a fright into you. My top adult allegory is Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which is a modern retelling of the Orpheus myth (which is sort of an allegory itself). Lord of the Flies is often read as an allegory, as are Animal Farm, Moby-Dick, and Waiting for the Barbarians. (Wikipedia has a pretty good list.)
The actual French Revolution was built to be an allegory — unbelievable acts of violence that toppled an established way of life, loaded with pioneering visions and naïve experimentation. The narrative is very Hegelian — forging a national identity (synthesis) after lurching from revolutionary extremes (thesis and antithesis). To me, it's a familiar story about the personal search for identity that many of us set out on, often starting off with a revolt against the status quo (family, tradition), overdoing it in a few directions (careers, partners, etc), and eventually settling into time-tested, intractable self.
A recent review of The French Revolution assigned the lead characters from my novel to figures from the actual revolution, and came to different pairings than I'd envisioned for half of them. But for me, that's half the fun of an allegory — the wiggle room to bend the details to fit your own interpretation while pondering the hard-flowing central idea coursing downstream like fresh snowmelt.
But enough about me — what's your favorite allegory?