(I originally posted this in the English Language & Usage section, but was told it might fit in better over here.)
I'm writing an article for a pop/geek culture site I'm a part of, and I'm trying to figure out whether a certain element in a story is a metaphor or a symbol. I've done a bit of research on the two, but it's not helped much with the particular thing I'm trying to write about.
SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS REBELS PAST THIS POINT
Here's what I'm dealing with: In the animated show, Star Wars Rebels, the character Kanan Jarrus is blinded in the second season, and from then onward he wears a mask to cover his eyes most of the time. However, in key moments he will remove this mask, and it allows you to see his whole face as well as his scar that was the result of the injury that also caused the blindness. A lot of fans have expressed curiosity over why it is that he does this, as it oftentimes seems odd for him to take off his mask as if to look at someone when he can't see them in the first place.
I'm trying to show how the mask is a metaphor/symbol for being open and vulnerable: The mask goes on, and he is hard to read and speaks in more of a monotone (this often happens in scene where he's fighting). The mask goes off, and he's much more open and personal (this often happens in scenes where he's dealing with his close crew members, or, in recent episodes, with very personal relationships between himself and another character).
I can't figure out if this is a metaphor or a symbol. I've written the article and just sent it to my editor, but now I'm worrying that I got it all wrong and was going to ask him if I could make a few more revisions to fix this problem before he publishes it.
To complicate it even more, I'm dedicating one section of the article to show how the symbol/metaphor works practically in the storytelling; because of the style of animation, it's very easy to see characters' thoughts and emotions by observing their faces, specifically their eyes. Their eyes are very lifelike in this way, and it's often very important to pay attention to details in them in order to understand what's currently going on with the characters, much like in a live-action media. Therefore, when Kanan wears his mask, you can't see his eyes and therefore don't have as much understanding of what's going on in his head, and this really contributes to the symbol/metaphor already going on. The mask works literally to help the audience feel the impact of the figurative symbol/metaphor.
Would anyone know whether I should classify this as a symbol, metaphor, or both? So far, I seem to be getting the answer that, while the mask is symbolic, the taking off/putting on of the mask is a metaphor. So essentially, the mask is symbolic and metaphorical? In in, when the character first began wearing the mask, it was symbolic of how he also pulled away from people who cared about him and started to bottle everything up inside, instead of sharing his feelings, but from that point on it also became a metaphor for opening up and being vulnerable? Can anyone else clarify if I'm getting it right here?
UPDATE: the post I'm writing goes live tomorrow, so I only have until then to figure out if I'm right or wrong, and make any changes based on that.