"That's not a knife! This is a knife!" Knives in Literature and Popular Culture

Posted by Sam Flaherty on

Knives have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. They have been used for hunting, crafting, cooking, and many other tasks.

However, knives also have a symbolic meaning in literature and popular culture. In this blog post, we will explore the symbolism of knives in literature and popular culture, from classic novels to modern movies.

Warning: this blog post contains spoilers

The Knife as a Symbol of Power

One of the most common symbolism of knives in literature and popular culture is power. The knife is a symbol of power and control, often used by characters who want to assert their dominance over others.

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, the titular character uses a knife to murder King Duncan and seize the throne. The knife represents Macbeth's ambition and desire for power.

In the popular TV series Game of Thrones, the character Arya Stark uses a special dagger to kill the Night King, the leader of the White Walkers. The dagger represents Arya's power and determination to avenge her family and protect the realm.

The Knife as a Symbol of Violence

Another common symbolism of knives in literature and popular culture is violence. Knives are often associated with violence and aggression, and they are frequently used as weapons in movies and TV shows.

In the classic novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the boys stranded on an island use a knife to kill a pig for food. However, as the boys become more savage and violent, the knife becomes a symbol of their brutality and loss of humanity.

In the movie Psycho, the character Norman Bates uses a knife to murder Marion Crane in the infamous shower scene. The knife represents the violence and madness that lurks beneath Norman's seemingly normal exterior.

The Knife as a Symbol of Betrayal

Knives are also associated with betrayal in literature and popular culture. A knife can be used to stab someone in the back, both literally and figuratively.

In the novel Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the character Brutus stabs Caesar with a knife, betraying his friend and leader. The knife represents Brutus's betrayal and his decision to put his own ideals above his loyalty to Caesar.

In the movie The Godfather, the character Michael Corleone uses a knife to kill his brother Fredo, who has betrayed the family. The knife represents Michael's coldness and his willingness to do whatever it takes to protect his power and reputation.

The Knife as a Symbol of Survival

Finally, knives can also be symbols of survival in literature and popular culture. Knives are essential tools for survival in the wilderness, and they represent the strength and resourcefulness of characters who must fight to stay alive.

In the novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, the protagonist Brian Robeson uses a hatchet, which is essentially a type of knife, to survive in the wilderness after a plane crash. The knife represents Brian's determination and ingenuity in the face of extreme adversity.

In the movie The Revenant, the character Hugh Glass uses a knife to survive a grizzly bear attack and to kill his enemies. The knife represents Glass's resilience and his ability to adapt and overcome the harsh conditions of the wilderness.

Pop Culture References

Knives have been a part of popular culture for decades, from horror movies to action thrillers. Here are a few pop culture references that highlight the symbolism of knives:

  • In the movie Halloween, the character Michael Myers uses a large kitchen knife to murder his victims, representing his unrelenting violence and madness.

  • In the movie Kill Bill, the character Beatrix Kiddo uses a Japanese sword to seek revenge on her enemies, representing her determination and strength.

  • In the TV series Hannibal, the character Hannibal Lecter is known for his love of knives and his culinary skills, which he uses to prepare his victims for consumption.


In conclusion, knives have a rich symbolism in literature and popular culture. They can represent power, violence, betrayal, survival, and many other themes. The use of knives in literature and popular culture reflects the enduring fascination and fear that humans have towards these versatile and dangerous tools. By examining the symbolism of knives, we can gain a deeper understanding of how they shape our perceptions of the world around us.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment