The Symbolism in ‘Turning Red,’ Explained   

Certain stories contain more than what meets the eye. Turning Red is a wildly popular romance story that has gripped readers across the globe with its memorable characters, magnetic plot development, and heartfelt moments. It follows Angelina, a young woman who is stuck in an emotionally vacant and unfulfilled life, as she finds the courage to shift away from the rut of her life and discover her inner self with the help of her half-sister, Jennifer. 

But there is much more to this story than meets the eye. It is full of thought-provoking symbolism that readers have closely picked up on and which enriches the story and its themes. In this article, we will explore the symbolism found in Turning Red, providing an in-depth look at what this story is conveying beyond romance.

What is the Symbolism Found in Turning Red?  

Turning Red is a story filled with profound symbolism. From the story’s title to the characters and their journeys to the literal and symbolic objects they encounter, the entire story is sewn together with a web of symbols. Here are some of the symbols most often cited as being particularly meaningful in the story:


The title of the story, ‘Turning Red’, is highly symbolic, and one can easily infer that it references the color red. Red has many associations, such as danger, life, love, passion, death, and heat. Red is significant throughout the story, with the pink hair of Angelina’s half-sister, Jennifer, and the heart-shaped pendant Angelina loses featuring heroically in the story. Red is a symbol of Angelina’s transformation throughout the tale as she moves through her inner transformation and growth.


The butterfly often symbolizes transformation, growth, and change. Butterfly imagery is heavily used in the story, with the butterfly representing the transformation Angelina goes through. The butterfly is a stark contrast to the darkness of Angelina’s depression, showing her journey to the metaphorical light. This symbolism is further explored through Jennifer’s words of wisdom and in the ending of the story.


Roses are often seen as a symbol of love, beauty, boldness, and courage. Throughout the story, roses are a key object that symbolizes Angelina’s growth and embrace of courage and kindness. Roses are presented to Angelina at pivotal moments–when the old flame stops her, to make sure that she is still alive; when Jennifer returns; and when Angelina gets an inkling of self-love.


The lighthouse is a multi-layered symbol in the story. It first appears as a metaphor for Angelina’s personal voyage–as she moves away from the darkness and finds a beacon of light that guides her away from the turbulence of her life. It also serves as a metaphor for finding one’s inner light and initiating a journey to personal self-realization.

Analysis of the Symbolism in Turning Red  

In Turning Red, symbolism is used to present ideas that transcend the literal intensity of the story and offer commentary on themes such as identity, acceptance, and self-discovery. Below we provide some analysis on the symbolism in Turning Red, investigating how it is used to convey these themes:


The symbolism in Turning Red is used to explore identity and self-discovery. For example, the butterfly, a stark contrast to the darkness of Angelina’s depression, symbolizes her journey to self-realization and the embrace of her true identity. Similarly, the lighthouse serves as a metaphor for finding one’s inner light and initiating a journey to personal self-realization. Similarly, red is a symbol for Angelina’s transformation with the riveting pink hair of Jennifer signifying a break from the dull monotony of Angelina’s life.


The symbolism in Turning Red also communicates the theme of acceptance. The roses are the perfect example of this, with them representing Angelina’s growth and her embrace of courage and kindness. As well as this, the lighthouse symbolizes Angelina’s acceptance of her inner light and a journey of self-acceptance.

Turning Red is a beautiful and compelling story that keeps readers engaged and eager to explore its symbolism. From the title itself to the objects and metaphors used throughout, symbolism is employed to weave a unique and thought-provoking message into the story, one that speaks to themes such as self-discovery and acceptance. This article has explored the symbolism to be found in Turning Red and how it enriches the story’s themes.