There are two components to any symbol: the physical object and the abstract concept the object represents.
First and foremost, the symbol must be a physical, tangible, material thing that can be perceived by the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell.
Freedom, therefore, cannot be a symbol. Love cannot be a symbol.
An eagle, on the other hand, can be a symbol (of freedom). A heart can be a symbol (of love).
Often, symbols are culture-specific. For example, for Americans, the Bald Eagle is a symbol of America and of freedom. For other cultures, however, the Bald Eagle is just a bird. Their symbol of freedom might be a horse (for nomadic cultures) or a dolphin (for seafaring cultures).
Archetypes differ from symbols in that archetypes transcend cultures; in other words, they are symbols that all cultures share. For example, a mother is a symbol of care, comfort, and life. These connotations are shared by all cultures.
If, as Stevens writes in Ariadne's Clue (1998), these "archetypal propensities [...] underlie all human thought and action" (p. 21), from where do these archetypes arise?
Many evolutionary biologists and psychologists believe this capacity for symbol formation is one of the hallmarks of humanity; thus, it was when we began to create symbols that we became more than ape. We became human. As such, the capacity for and pattern of symbol formation may be hard-wired into our brains, our genes, our very being.
Here is your assignment. I have three different photographs on the English 310 webpage (http://www.csub.edu/~mwoodman/english310/). One is a griffin from Apollo Temple in the city of Didim in Modern Turkey (what used to be Ancient Greece), one is of an elk sculpture that sits in front of the Walter Stiern Library, and one is of a graffiti train parked in Tehachapi. In each case, an artist went out of his or her way to create a symbol.
Your assignment is to choose one of these three symbols and post an explanation as to just what this thing represents. What does the griffin represent? What does the elk represent? What does the blue ghost represent?