Today’s question on Booking Through Thursday is a bit of a mammoth one and one I don’t know quite how to answer, so as usual I will probably go off at quite a tangent so apologies if so. The question is “My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it. It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?” Now for me this sounds very like a mix of a bookish problem page and an English literature A-level question and as I have been discussing on and off on my blog of late my late school years almost put me off books and reading for life. I can’t blame the teachers (my English teaching mother would kill me) it’s their job, but it needs to be done carefully as I was severely put off books almost for good.
I didn’t feel that my English teachers particularly made me seek symbolism; I think they made me try and look at books in a different way but sadly to a point that makes you over analyse books. I do think that the curriculum killed all Shakespeare it touched and many other classics such as A Room With A View, through endless analysis and over egging of the literary pudding. it made it an effort, where was the fun in that?
I think all books have different symbolic references to different people, characters might symbolise people you know or issues that are going on in society, the world, you name it. Each and every individual will take something completely different away from a book. From reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood recently I didn’t feel any review I did could do the book justice in terms of all it symbolised and discussed and yet there are books I read that are simply a story. That I think is the objective of every author, to tell a good tale and take you on a journey, the rest of the work I think should be done by the reader taking as much or little out of it as possible or as they want, reading shouldn’t be a chore or a bore.
English teachers taught me how to read books differently I suppose, how to look for hidden messages and sides to the story you might not initially see and reading The Blind Assassin I wanted to thank them for teaching me that, to a degree. They did somewhat take the enjoyment out of reading, making it too much of an exercise and less of an enjoyment. This all made me think... why do we read? The latter of the two is particularly is the reason that I read the others are escapism, relaxation plus learning about things or people that interest me or cultures and events I might not know about without certain wonderful books. Maybe that’s not the academic way to read a book; it’s certainly the most fun way. What about you, why do you read? Do you need symbolism or just wonderful words that make you escape and make you think while relaxing as hours while away?
Oh P.S loving the new/re-released after 20+ years Du Maurier (see below) but am limiting myself to a short story a day to make the delight last!