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James Madison.

[Detail] James Madison.


In literature, an allegory is a work in which characters, events, and objects are symbols for people, events, or ideas outside the narrative. Thus, an allegory has two meanings: the literal meaning and the symbolic meaning.

Read "Jonathan Bull and Mary Bull," Madison's short allegorical story of the Missouri Compromise.

  • What were Jonathan and Mary Bull, their estate, and their child symbols for? What did the Head Steward represent?
  • To what ideas did Madison give the most attention? Why do you think he did so?
  • Why do you think Madison chose to write about the Missouri Compromise using allegory? What was his intent in writing this allegory? How effective do you think the allegory was in conveying his views? Why?