HUM 2271

Word Count


The definition of a symbol is something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance. A symbol is also defined as an act, sound, or objects having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response. According to these definitions there is a countless amount of symbols in the world. Some of these symbols can be as simple as a letter to represent sound, or as Bottom of Formcomplex as a fresco left over from ancient roman times.

One very influential symbol is the American Flag. The American flag is a complex symbol with many representations. It was first authorized by congress to represent the United States of America in the year 17771. When it was first made it contained thirteen stripes alternating in the colors of red and white. On the top left was a blue square containing thirteen stars. The number of stars and stripes was symbolic for the amount of states that were in the union. The American Flag, as we know it today, still has thirteen stripes, but has 50 stars to represent the amount of states that are presently in the union.

The actual colors and symbols of the American flag also have their own meanings and representations. The red in the flag represents zeal, valor, and fervency. The white represents hope, purity, cleanliness of life, and rectitude of conduct. The blue stands for the color of heaven, the reverence of God, loyalty, sincerity, justice and truth. The star, which was originally an ancient symbol of India, Persia and Egypt, symbolizes dominion of sovereignty as well as lofty aspirations.

In recent events the American Flag still represents the same things, but also represents the strength of America. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center on


September 11, 2001, the United States has embarked on a war against terror. Americans were urged to represent their country by putting flags on their houses, cars, clothes, etc. Now it is a symbol against terrorism.

Another symbol that has a strong meaning, and which gets its infamy in the early twentieth century is the swastika. The swastika is the oldest cross and emblem in the world2. It is a combination of four “L’s” which stand for luck, light, love and life. It has been found it ancient Rome, excavations of Grecian cities, on Buddhist idols, on Chinese coins dating as far back as 315 B.C.E., and even in Southwest American Indian tribes whom us it as an amulet.

Up until 1920 the swastika was used commonly around the world. In Nepal voters expressed their choice by stamping a swastika next to the name of the candidate they preferred. Farmers in Tibet placed swastikas on their door in order to ward off evil. Then a man by the name of Adolph Hitler, a politician for the Nazi party in Germany, decided that the Nazi Party needed its own insignia and flag.

For Hitler the flag had to be a symbol of struggle, as well as being highly effective as a poster. Later that year a red flag featuring a swastika in a white circle became the official emblem of the Nazi Party. He described each part of the flag of having its own meaning. The red represented the social idea of the movement, the white stood for his nationalistic ideas, and the swastika symbolized the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic. From that


day to the present the swastika has been associated with the negativity that the Nazi regime represented.

The cross is also a symbol. It is the symbol that represents the Catholic Church.. But it was not always a catholic symbol. The cross is originally an ancient symbol associated with the sun whose origins are lost. The cross was clearly associated with the sun in many cultures long before Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and more and more evidence seems to indicate that the cross represents the total eclipse of the sun.

Various forms of equilateral crosses, often radiating out from circular hubs, appear on the pottery and textiles of