Parable is a figure of speech, which presents a short story typically with a moral lesson at the end. You often have heard stories from your elders such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf and All is Vanity, etc. These are parables, because they teach you a certain moral lesson. Parable is, in fact, a Greek word, parable, which means comparison. It is like a succinct narrative, or a universal truth that uses symbolism, simile, and metaphor, to demonstrate the moral lesson intended to be taught. Like analogy, we find the use of parables in verse, and prose form specifically in religious texts such as the Upanishad or the Bible.
Example of Parable from Literature
The holy Quran narrates a parable in second chapter, Al Baqra 2: 259, in which a man happened to pass through hamlet – a place where people died centuries ago. The man doubted the power of God, and thought of how He would resurrect them on the Doomsday. Subsequently, God caused him to die, resurrected him after a hundred years, and asked him how long he slept to which he replied only a day. However, his food was still fresh, which he brought with him. This shows that God has control over all things and time. The traveler’s donkey, on the other hand, was dead and became a skeleton. Then, God joined the bones, muscles, flesh and blood of the donkey again before that man and brought it back to life. Hence, this parable taught us a moral lesson in three ways; firstly, God can change time. Secondly, God has power over life, death, resurrection and no other can have this power. Finally, humans have no power, and they should put their faith only in God.
Jesus has mentioned a very popular parable related to Good Samaritan in the holy Bible. Gospel of Luke (10:29-37) describes that there was a traveler (may be a Jew), whom some people had robbed and beaten alongside the road and left him. A Levite and a priest passed through that way, but both ignored that man. Eventually, a Samaritan reached there and helped the injured and miserable man without thinking about his race or religious belief (generally, Samaritans despise Jews). The moral of this parable is to help all those who are in need, without having prejudice for anyone due to perceived differences.
Hans Christian Anderson has written a short parable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in a book “Fairy Tales Told for Children.” The author tells about the life of a silly and vain emperor, whom two cheaters approached, pretending to be artists. They suggested him to wear their clothes, which they said, would make him invisible in front of incompetent and stupid people. The emperor agreed and paid them to make such clothes, as he enjoyed wearing fancy dresses. In fact, they did not make any fancy suit; however, people started admiring them, so that they might not be considered as useless and stupid. Therefore, emperor took off his clothes and wore the invisible dress but ended up moving around naked in the town. Nobody told him the truth except a young boy who screamed to see him. Thus, the moral of this parable is that people should have their own opinion, and they need not to depend upon others’ opinions.
In the book of Luke (15:11-32), Jesus instructs about the love of God for humanity. In this parable, a rich father gives inheritance to his two sons before death and both leave him. But his younger son wastes the whole wealth and becomes miserable. Sooner that son understands that if he has to survive, then he would have to take the help of his wealthy father ,and father also sees his poor and miserable condition. Hence, he allows him to live with him again. When father dies, he leaves his remaining inheritance for the younger son. The tale conveys the symbolic message that God is like a fatherly figure, who loves humanity despite its rebellious nature, and those who follow His path, are welcomed by Him with rewards.
Function of Parable
Parable is a great teaching tool, because it often uses symbolic imagery and metaphors that the audience can easily recognize. Thus, the storytellers could convey complicated moral truths in such a way that they become relatable and understandable to one’s own life. It is because sometimes listeners have to choose the right lesson that a parable conveys, and the audience, or listeners also participate in arriving at the conclusion in this way. Generally, parables help the readers understand philosophical issues or moral lessons in relatable terms, while tellers could lead them in a better way to apply such principles in their daily lives.