Friedrich Nietzsche's Writings Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community.
We are thankful of their contributions and encourage you to make your own.
Written by Timothy Sexton
The Apollonian is a central symbolic figure in the philosophy of Nietzsche, though his specificity evolves over time. Originally and for the sake of simplicity in describing the worldview of the writer, Apollo is the symbolic personification of Western thought and society against which Nietzsche raged: he is the small-minded rational mind constructed upon the false godheads of slave morality.
Standing in opposition to Apollo and representing everything that Nietzsche felt went wrong with Western society to the point that civilization as it evolved is the real Greek drama is the ancient god of wine, Dionysus. He is the symbol of the primal life spirit breaking free from yoke of Apollonian rationality; his amorality is an expression of contempt for the man-made morality that is both the coercive tool of the master class and the corrosive crutch of the herd.
The herd is not just symbolic of collective action based upon unthinking adherence to authority. Within the context of being herded is the subtext degeneracy. The herd is more than a mere symbol of blind obedience, it is a symbol of the degeneracy of man into a lower animal unworthy of the potential for dignity existing within each person.
The dog, like the herd, is a symbol that is apparent on one level, but which takes on greater meaning due to what lies beneath. For Nietzsche, a dog’s loyalty is act of submission, but since a dog has teeth, claws and a propensity toward aggressive behavior, the real question is why does the dog allow itself to become submissive to humans rather than enforce its dominant traits by biting and clawing them? The answer is that the dog’s submissive behavior results from learned dependence upon humans. And why do humans perform acts that teach the dog to be submissive? Because they enjoy the feelings of superiority and mastery. The dog is therefore not just a symbol of submission, but a symbol of how behavior is learned and then internalized to create identity. The dog is not a slave to its human master because it has taught be so, but because it was born to be so, according to Nietzsche, at least.
Like the dog, the cat is a domesticated animal given to certain comforts, but unlike the dog it is in closer touch with its wild, primal ferocity. The feline is Dionysian in its roguish disregard for its role as a submissive pet at times and in its occasional displays of a willfulness to stay true to its predatory instincts rather than accept the dependent role assigned to it by an owner, the cat is the symbolic counterpoint to the dog. Oh, it also pops up as a symbol for the female in Nietzsche’s more misogynistic moments.
The eagle flies high, is majestic and looks down upon everything beneath him. This is pride in the sense that Nietzsche mandates is honest. The eagle is literally above everything else and he literally is capable of manifesting that elevated position through flight. When one can do something others cannot, it is act of dishonesty to not feel pride. Furthermore, it is not unhealthy to their self-image to deny that pride.
Otto Von Bismarck
Pre-eminent political and military figure for the German people in the latter half of the 19th century whose strong sense of nationalism was instrumental in leading the cause for German unification as the embodiment of Prussian values. As such, for Nietzsche, he is the symbol of what was wrong with the Germanic identity. Had Nietzsche been born later, instead of misguidedly adopting him as one of their own, Hitler would have become this symbol.
Blood as a symbol also connects to Bismarck and the entire Klingon-warrior thing associated with Teutonic and Prussian characteristics. Bismarck’s outline for German unification called for taking up irons and sacrificing blood and it is in this sense that blood is mostly engaged symbolically as a metaphor of sacrifice and submission. Contextually, this also leads directly back to Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity as a slave religion.
Update this section!
You can help us out by revising, improving and updating