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Windows are an important part of the architectural design of buildings. Without them, our houses would be dull, dark, and stuffy. The vital functions of windows have led them to collect several symbolic meanings over the years.
Windows Past and Present
According to the English Oxford dictionary, a window is an opening in a wall or roof of a building or vehicle, fitted with glass in a frame to admit light or air and allow people to see out.
Windows, however, haven’t always been made of glass. Traditionally, windows were openings in walls or roofs fitted with small doors, usually wooden, that were opened to let in air and light.
Modern windows on the other hand can be made of a transparent or translucent material such as glass. The material is held together by a sash set in a frame and is usually fitted with a locking mechanism to allow ease of opening and closing.
Symbolism of Windows
As the bridge between the interior and the exterior, windows let in elements from the outside as well as expose what is on the inside. This function of windows has led them to hold the following symbolic meanings.
- Opportunity– As aforementioned, windows are made in such a way that they can be opened at will. This aspect makes them a perfect symbolism for opportunity. You can open the window to welcome new opportunities or close them to restrict anything unwanted.
- Liberation – Picture yourself in a hot stuffy room. You then go to the window and open it to let in the cool fresh air. Know the feeling that comes with breathing in deeply at that particular moment? That is often seen as freedom. This scenario can be viewed as the window presenting freedom from being confined by heat and stale air. On the other hand, windows are seen as a symbol of liberation because they provide a way to escape.
- Veil – Windows act as a veil by shielding those on the interior while at the same time partially exposing them. In the case of tinted windows, the person inside is able to view the outdoors with discretion without people on the outside realizing or watching them.
- Desire/ Longing – Windows provide a way to look at the world outside and imagine the opportunities it brings. If you are in a room or a house that you are unable to leave for some reason, then you may often find yourself staring out the window, longing for what may seem to be beyond the horizon. This symbolic meaning is largely depicted in literature and movies. An excellent example of this is the Oscar-winning short film The Neighbor’s Window.
- Fear – Sometimes people stare out the window or in some cases dread looking out the window in fear of the chaos of the outside world. Such people only feel safe when inside their space and dread stepping foot outside. In this case, windows can represent something to avoid.
The Use of Window in Language
Based on the above listed symbolic meanings, the word window has several uses in the English language and especially in idiomatic expressions. Some of these idioms include:
- ‘Window on the world’- This idiom is used to indicate the process of familiarizing yourself with other cultures outside your own.
- ‘Window of vulnerability’ – Derived from the function of the window as an alternative way into a building, this idiom is used to indicate a way or path in a situation that makes you vulnerable to harm or external forces.
- ‘Out the window’ – Derived from the function of the window as an escape route, this idiom is used to indicate that something is gone and has a very low to no possibility of coming back.
- ‘Come in by the window’ – This can be used to mean to ‘sneak in’ or in some situations it means approaching through an area or way that is not the designated entrance.
Symbolism of Windows in Dreams
Seeing a window in a dream can be a sign of positivity and probability. It’s a signal to inform you that you are capable of gaining perspective about something that has escaped your comprehension. A window in a dream presents the opportunity to see things more clearly.
A dream whereby you are looking out the window has three connotations:
- Firstly, it is an indication that you are safe from something that is happening around you and that you need not worry about it.
- Secondly, it is a reminder of the opportunities that lied ahead as well as an invitation to welcome them or go after them.
- Thirdly, it serves as a warning to take dangers that are looming seriously and a reminder to keep yourself safe.
A dream where you are looking inside a window is an indication of a situation or relationship you are in that refuses to evolve while you do. It serves as a hint of perception as to why things seem to be stuck.
A dream where someone else is staring at you through the window is an indication that your veil is compromised. The person is able to read you and know you deeper than you have projected.
Dreaming of a broken window symbolizes compromised security. It’s an indication of your vulnerability to a person or a situation.
A dream where you are washing a window is representative of clarity. It shows you that you are either gaining or about to gain confidence and clarity on an issue you are facing.
A dream where you are entering a building through the window is indicative of a way to secretively exploit an opportunity. It may be an encouragement to cut corners or a warning that you shouldn’t be cutting corners.
Seeing a foggy window in a dream is an indication that you are confused or uncertain about a certain situation.
Symbolism of Windows in Art
Windows are used in art to symbolize hope, change, and daring to explore. They’re a popular symbol used in art. Examples of art that have used windows are The Inn of the Dawn Horse by Leonora Carrington, where the window is used to indicate hope and the possibility of the woman in the picture to gain freedom.
The painting Woman at the Window by Caspar David Friedrich uses the window to symbolize a longing for escape from the banality of life.
Symbolism of Windows in Literature and Movies
A popular use of windows in literature is from the movie “Tangled” by Walt Disney Pictures. In this film, the main character Rapunzel stares out the window for years longing to be free. It is also through the same window that she eventually escapes. The window in this film thus connotates two symbolic meanings: desire to escape and escape.
In the book ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, the window is used to symbolize vulnerability. One of the characters Nelly leaves a window open to allow Heathcliff to access the room. Catherine in this case is left open and vulnerable.
In the book ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert, windows are used to indicate the possibility of freedom that the main character, Emma, will never have.
The symbolic uses of the window are inexhaustible. What is clear and constant is that windows provide the opportunity to possibilities, daring us to explore, while also reminding us to keep ourselves contained and safe. What is left is for us to discern when to step out and when to close the veil.