To introduce symbolism to students, two short texts were used: “Linoleum Roses,” a vignette, and “The Rose That Grew From Concrete,” a poem. Students annotate the texts for titles, repetition, and improbability/impossibility of literal meaning. Then students can discuss what in these texts might be symbolic and how they know. For example, if they determine that roses might be symbolic in each, they can think about their associations with roses, how the roses are portrayed in each text, and what they think the roses might represent in each text. Using these two texts in particular emphasizes the importance of context when determining symbolic meaning. The same image (roses) can mean very different things in different contexts.
While reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, students may notice or can be prompted to notice certain objects that may have symbolic value. For example, pebbles appear repeatedly toward the beginning of the novel as does snow throughout the novel. Both of these objects can be connected to changing events and characters in the novel.