What Is the Symbolism of a Lighthouse?


Quick Answer

Because they are constructed to withstand powerful storms, lighthouses are frequently depicted as symbols of strength. They are also used to symbolize shelter, protection and peace for the same reason. Lighthouses expose the connection between inanimate structures and human emotion in a way that few other buildings can.

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Full Answer

Equipped with powerful radio transmitters and lights bright enough to penetrate the darkness, lighthouses serve as maritime and aerial navigational aids. They are often used to symbolize true guidance and steadfastness in relationships, teams and organizations, encapsulating their ability to weather any storm. Lighthouses have also been used to represent the determination to achieve goals, no matter the challenges.

A lighthouse's phallic design and aura of imperturbability are sometimes used to depict strength and virility. However, lighthouses do not always evoke positive feelings. Because lighthouses tend to be located in isolated areas, they can symbolize fear, desolation and death. This is particularly true in television programs, movies and books, such as in Martin Scorsese's film "Shutter Island." Additionally, since their blinding light has occasionally been used to guide ships to their destruction, lighthouses can represent deception and betrayal. Escape from inside a lighthouse is virtually impossible; for this reason, they have also been employed as symbols of bondage.

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