I'm wondering how we first recognize a symbol in fiction... Like, at what specific point, as a reader, do you say, "Ah, that black veil is not just a simple black veil; it seems the author wants us to associate it with difficulties in communication, or secret sin, or death, etc.?" And why?--is it something about how the object presents itself relative to the "unsymbolic" setting?
I suspect that understanding the mechanics of this pattern may teach me something about how we recognize "synchronicity" or revelation (or whatever) in real life. Here's a picture of a book that I own called "Symbolism," which I just looked at strangely, as if seeing it for the first time:
When I saw it, I was in my wife's bathroom, thinking about using my computer. So if I were "reading" my life at that point, would this be an interesting moment to underline? To think more about? Would it help, for example, to know who gave me the book? Or why it's there and not on a shelf? Or that the portrait on the cover is Venus Verticordia, by Dante Rossetti? Is it significant that the book-cover doesn't show the woman's breasts, but the original painting did? Is it significant that I have looked incuriously at the book since it's been there a dozen times before seeing it this time, from the bathroom twenty feet away? Could this somehow be a key scene in the novel of my life? Or not?
In other words, is there some revelation in the fact of that book? Would I have noticed it if there weren't? Am I "over-reading," and if so, what is the danger in that?
So, new topic: what is this thing we think we know so well--symbolism--and how does it work?
Update/Correction: the book jacket does show the woman's breast (only one of them), including the nipple. Is it significant that I missed that on first glance?