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Secret motifs on the Screen: Part1

Updated on March 17, 2011

Hidden Symbols: Water

There’s a hidden symbolism that storytellers use to add to the subliminal power of the story. Most of us have noticed them, but whether we acknowledge them or not, they work, And enrich our experience. L:et’s look at water first.

Water, in mythology, has usually symbolized purification. In religion, it’s ablution or baptism. Hindus take a dip in sacred rivers to cleanse themselves of their sins.

Water stands for cleansing and the resultant change.

Violent changes are depicted by gushing water from fire hydrants, geysers, fountains and similar props. In many Indian movies, the hero, who minded his own business until he was provoked beyond breaking point, fights and defeats the villain. In the background, we usually see a burst hydrant shooting forth. Freud will have something to say about hydrants and the macho man, surely, eh, Dr Freud?

Rain is romantic change or changing times. Depends upon whether we see a couple in the rain, or the entire landscape washed by rain. When it’s just the hero, it means he is changing, transforming from underdog to superhero. Remember the rain in the Matrix after Neo decides to take the plunge? That rain also, obviously, resembled the green lines of the matrix.

Falling into water, also denotes a time of transformation. Maria and the kids do that, in ‘The Sound of Music,’ don’t they? And, in an earlier scene, it rains and pours, causing the scared kids to surrender to the heroine. “Raindrops on roses…”

Water bodies, like rivers, streams and the sea, denote travel that leads to transformation, usually. Harry Potter and the new scholars cross the lake in boats. And just as in the Sound of Music, there is rain when Harry realizes that he is a wizard and not an ordinary boy.

Next time you see water used in a story, note how the storyteller has made it stand for something. And tell us.

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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks, you are a Sweetie Pie!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Such a beautiful hub.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      That is a good thing! I am honoured!

      Thank you, Wayne!

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 9 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Very inspiring hub here, your words inspired some new art from me today!!

      Which is a good thing!!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks for that wow, Michelle! A waterfall would have meant something else in my teens, but now it means, for me, peace, blessings and passage of time.

      Thank you, Shyam, for the comment, and that link. Shall go there now.

    • shyamchat profile image

      shyamchat 9 years ago from Calcutta

      Congratulations for writing 100 hubs.

      Water flowing through a river has often been a symbol of life

      ....in the imageries used by Indian poets and story tellers.

      River has the power to give mankind prosperity as well as destruction . Civilisation grew on the banks of rivers , yet, a river like Hoang-ho or Brahmaputra causes immense misery to people.

      Pl read :http://www.fromoldbooks.org/Wood-NuttallEncyclopae...

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Wow, congratulations for your 100th hub Kenny! Symbols are everywhere. It is a very interesting topic. Speaking of water...I remember being asked before (which I would like to ask you too), "What words come into your mind when I say "Waterfall?"

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      And yours truly replied to the reply thanks! :)

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      I replied to your email, Kenny. ;)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      I guess I better add some more examples then.

      Thank you heaps, Elisabeth.

    • elisabeth reid profile image

      elisabeth reid 9 years ago from Colorado

      Fascinating observations and spot-on. So often water is overlooked as a metaphor -- or used badly and it's a shame because it's such a powerful image. I like the examples that you've provided.

      Enjoyed this. Thank you.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Sweetie Pie!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Very informative hub! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Let me reread your excerpts and see.

      Thank you, Isabella, for your comments.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      My stories usually have a clear beginning and then a loose plot that changes slightly over time. I really don't know if I use symbolism, I would be fascinated if I did. I think this is such a cool hub, Kenny, thanks for posting it!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Maybe you're right. Maybe it's there in our subconscious. I remember that when I returned to a ms to see if I could add some symbolism and motifs to the story, I had already dispensed them with a liberal hand! Sometimes the chicken makes the first appearance, sometimes the egg!

      Most writers consciously plot their stories; some play it by ear; some have a loose plot and then follow the flow of their instincts. Each method is capable of producing a good story. Like that, I guess symbolism can be used deliberately or not for it to work.

      Thank you, Isabella, kind lady, for this insight, too.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      I'm also wondering if people write this way as a product of unconsciously picking it up via the writers/filmakers who influenced them. I'm not sure if I do this or not, Id have to think my books over -- but if I do it, its definitely not conscious. But I am mostly influenced by film, not writers, so maybe I do. I dunno.. but it's interesting that you can see it!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      After reading many articles on writing screenplays and novels, I see that they do it consciously. It's like second nature to a pro.

      Thanks, Isabella, for asking about something I missed out in the hub. :)

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 9 years ago

      Fascinating. Do you think it's always conscious, when people put these things in their stories?

    • profile image

      Abhinaya 9 years ago

      Grand start from a new ALL STAR.

      Really Kenny,your way of presentation is laudable.Water is supposed to purify everything in Hindu religion.Looking forward to the sequels.Are you working on the FIVE ELEMENTS of nature?

      Thank you for constantly pointing out things we take for granted.Thumbs up!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
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      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Was almost as busy as you Zsuzsy Bee! Thanks for the welcome and comment. :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Kenny! Welcome back. Missed you. Wow hub numero 100.

      I loved this hub. Symbolism explanation at it's best.

      Kindest regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Dear Friends.

      Dindin, I already have done a series of hubs on colour, which includes symbolism. Start here:

      https://hubpages.com/art/Color-for-everyone---Fact...

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Kenny here is yet another thought...A little Love is like a drop of water giving enough strength to a wilted flower to Right itself...G-Ma :o) hugs

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 9 years ago from London UK

      Kenny, Another excellent hub! like most of them they alwasy leave me with many thoughts and things to think about long afterwards!!

      ;)

    • dindin profile image

      dindin 9 years ago from Texas

      I've always been fascinated with this kind of symbolism. Do you think you will do one on colors?

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Great stuff as always, Kenny.

    • funnebone profile image

      funnebone 9 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      Very good Kenny!

    • MyAdvice1008 profile image

      MyAdvice1008 9 years ago from Syracuse, New York

      What an interesting hub! I love symbolism and learning the different possibilities it holds.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Solar! :)

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 9 years ago from london

      Kenny, congratulations for your 100Th Hub! I especially like the last fight in Matrix Revolution in wonderful rain down-pouring as a main scene surrounding.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Violet. I was never the same after I bought a digital camera! Wisj you the same, lol!

      You're absolutely right as usual, G-ma! Water can be a tsunami and kill; it can also mean life in hot climes. Many hugs. :)

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      oh yes I will....Water is a soothing, yet wicked thing.  It can cut us canyons yet clean a baby.  It can change our feelings and make our hearts delighted...it keeps us alive  "with the sounds of music" that it can make..and can cleanse the soul from it's sins..and also keep the body going...Oh yes water is a much needed element in our lives..It lights us up ! !  wonderful hub Kenny...thanks..Lovingly yours  G-Ma :o) hugs

      Nice eyes

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 9 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      I enjoyed reading this, and learning something new. Have not paid attention to how water is used to add to the subliminal power of a story, I find this very interesting!  Will be on the lookout when I come across a story with water in it.

      BTW, I like the way you change photos, representing different expressions, very creative. I am stuck with my photo for now, as my camera is not working well, which gives me an excuse to purchase a new one. :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      I am delighted and honored to contribute to that, Desert!

      Your field of interest is a rewarding one, what fun! :)

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 9 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Loved this! I enjoy and have studied archetypal icons and stereotypical imagery...but never thought to think of the Rain scene in Sound Of Music as the symbolic, historical, ritualistic moment when "things change" and yet, that is exactly the moment of change in this movie...KUDOS!