The Dark Carnival version of "The Scythe" is also a bit different from the October Country/Anthology edition. I'm going to go back and read them both tonight. Might be fun stuff to discuss - it is definitely one of my favorites - it just wows me and gives me the chills.
I really enjoy our discussions. Thank you, too.
I don't mean to agree with Nard all the time but I do on this as well. I also don't intend to raid the honeycomb because I will get sick and hate honey. But I will take a handful. The same goes for stories. I never have the need to sit down and think, "Now just why in the hell did I like that honey?" I just liked it and that is that.
To me the situation isn't that the work of analyzing a story is hard or unpleasant, it is just the way I read. In the case of Bradbury, he is clear in his own talking and writing about his stories that they do operate at a deeper level and that the images and metaphors (which two terms he may use interchangeably) hold meaning to him.
Are you guys saying there isn't meaning inherent in the symbols and text of the story, or are you saying you just don't want to do it, and that reading the story is enough?
I'll take a stab at this:
By what rules do you analyze?
If you analyze by the rules by which the story was written, you will ultimately have a perplexing result...which is to say, it doesn't seem to ever end. An answer gives way to another question...
How do you analyze art, for instance, or music. The mechanics go so far...and then "art"...that thing that makes music music...kicks in... and then we go into the world of philosophers ...and then you can really be in trouble.
There is a quality, I say...in all creative acts...that can never be anyalze to their 'true' workings... It is not only impossible, but it was made that way...on purpose...
That begs the question a little bit. I wasn't asking about which methodology of hermeneutics you were to apply, but whether you were saying that there was no point in doing exegetical work on the texts at all.
As to which rules, there are standard exegetical methods that seem to apply to any textual reading. You analyze the words, the ideas, the relationships of ideas, the identification of meaningful symbols and/or metaphors, and the act of trying to identify what those symbols/metaphors mean. In some cases, we know the author intended to write with metaphors, which means part of our job as a reader is to seek to understand what the author is doing with the metaphors.
Bradbury himself, in reference to "The Scythe" has said it involves (at least) a double metaphor. The fact that he would state that seems to indicate that a reader may want to understand what the metaphor represented or was trying to convey to the reader.
He has also said (as referenced above) that he uses metaphors and images subconsciously. This seems to warrant the examination of meaning in his stories even if he didn't explicitly state that one existed. By his own comments, he may have put meanings into the story without doing so consciously.
In either case, I think the attempt to analyze the writing of an author in an effort to better understand what he/she is trying to do is a worthwhile exercise that enhances our understanding and enjoyment of a text.
The idea that in examining a text, one idea opens the door to another question is not problematic to me. I think that's how we learn. By staying tied to the text, we can exercise some restraint in our interpretations in order to stay within the context and intent of the story. I think the fact that new ideas/readings open the door to new questions is a good thing, not a bad one.
Part of the value of philosophy, theology, and literary criticism is that these disciplines allow us to seek to understand meaning -- rather than just taking things at face value. This practice keeps us from a world defined in platitudes or sales slogans. Some of the meaning of a story will lie in the text, some will lie in the intentions of the author, and some will lie in our own subjective understanding of the work. Literary criticism is, after all, another form of literary art.
Again, are you guys saying there is no value to analyzing a story and in trying to find meaning in it's text/metaphors/symbols/ideas? Does the reality that interpreters may never entirely agree on an interpretation mean that the interpretive act is therefore useless? I would disagree with that.
I believe that you are referring to the "reader response" school of literary criticism. I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the meaning of art. I think that art, literature, poetry, etc, acts like an Ink Blot Test--everybody sees soemthing different.
I'm not saying there is no value in picking at a story. I enjoy reading what people get out of them from the very simple to the extremely complex. It is just that I would have no fun at being an archaeologist. In fact, the only way I'd discover an ancient bone would be to trip over it. That said, I don't know why someone would secretly sneak something into a story. As Mr Dark said in Mr Bradbury's case it was unintentional, a work of the subconscience. But Mr Dark is right that I myself take a story at face value. It is why I like Hemingway who wrote that in his stories a fish is a fish, a shark a shark, and so on. The sum is that I believe in what lasts. Washington Irving is one of may favorite authors. What do I remember of his stories? The Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, the bridge, Rip Van Winkle, sleep, and his rusted old gun. I don't remember the minute details of either or the metaphors or any such symbolism.
I see what you're saying (I think). I personally think there is much more to literature than just the story and images. This is just the beginning of literature. Beyond that, there is what the story and images mean. That's part of the fun of literature for me.
With Hemingway, although he claims a fish is just a fish, there is very little writing more filled with symbolism (almost self-consciously so) than "The Old Man and the Sea" In a similar way, Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" and "A Clean Well-lighted Place" are packed full of symbolism.
Hemingway liked to play the anti-intellectual, but his second home (in Cuba) had over 8,000 books in it. He refused to allow pictures of himself reading or with books to be distributed as he felt it would damage his rough and tumble outdoorsman image.
A small book edited by Larry Phillips ("Ernest Hemingway on Writing") has some interesting excerpts from Hemingway's thoughts on writing. Pretty interesting reading.
On Bradbury's comment, what he indicated in the introduction of "The Illustrated Life" is that he uses metaphors all the time -- sometimes he uses them consciously and sometimes unconsciously.
I'm not trying to tell others how to read, but for me, reading is much more "significant" AND fun, if I really study it out and find all the nooks, crannies and meanings that an author puts in there.
Ayn Rand said you should do philosophy like a detective -- follow all possible leads. I definitely feel the same way about reading a novel.
Thoreau had this to say (in Walden):
"To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberatively and reservedly as they were written."
Continuing the Hemingway theme a bit, he's quoted as saying that symbols are like raisins found in raisin bread (or some such metaphor!); they're deliberately put there by the maker of the bread to be enjoyed by the eater of the bread. I also recall one of his letters stating he'd considered naming one of his books, "Little Wooden Brown Bears" to purposefully confound the critics. No, writers, for the most part, know what they're doing when they use metaphors and symbols and sometimes they don't. I have another recollection a story of T.S. Eliot being regaled by a fan about some of the meanings and symbols she'd found in his "The Cocktail Party." He nodded and said, "You could be right."
So, no, Mr. Dark has a very good point, as he often does. While I prefer to read stories simply for their use of language and metaphor, others like to read for character and plot. Some like to dig deeper. I see no conflict in any of these methods.
I have that book, Mr Dark. Just got it recently and like it, especially his thoughts on other writers. That is where I saw the qoute about the fish, sharks, etc.. I 'll type out the quote in its entirety below.
As I say that I don't believe it was Hemingway's intention to create his stories with any other purpose than to write simply and without all the ulterior motives other writers used at the time. I think that is why he is so popular and considered the most important writer of the 20th century by some. He was a tough guy and an anti-intellectual. I don't think that was a gimmick of his. A boxer, big-game hunter, fisherman, you know. He always relied on the "true simple declarative sentence." I always liked his writing because it was without all the symbolism, metaphors, adjectives, and any other cute terms.
Here's the quote that I refered to:
"Then there is the other secret. There isn't and symbolysm (mis-spelled). The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is sh*t. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know."
to Bernard Berenson, 1952
Selected Letters, p. 780
But, he positied himself as being anti-intellectual because it maintained a mystique he wanted to put out there. He was an outdoorsman, he was a hunter and fisherman, he did involve himself in wars. But he was also extremely well-read. He was also very jealous of the image he maintained. After his death, there were pictures of him sitting in bed reading that got distributed. He refused to share those kinds of pictures with the public. He was proud of pictures of him with trophy kills, etc., but you didn't see many pictures showing him sitting around reading -- although he was very well read.
The kind of symbolism in several of the stories and "Old Man in the Sea" . . . I'm hard-pressed to believe they are accidental. The names, the relationships, the very, very self-conscious reference to -- not just the hands, but the palms of the hands bleeding, etc.
He did write simply and with great power. I love his writing. He did want his writing to depict life-as-it-is. But when he posits himself as an anti-intellect or non-intellect, I question whether or not he's being a bit disingenuous.
Mega-dittoes, Mr. Dark.
I'm, perhaps, and without the proper humility, the world's biggest Hemingway fan (Well, not literally the biggest. . .) and I have to agree: Hemingway was extremely well-read but didn't want anyone to know about it. His education on the Left Bank in Paris gave him the equivalent of a college education, and he was friends, at least for a while, with some of the literary giants of the 20th century. I'm familiar with his letter to Berenson and believe he was being, to use Mr. Dark's word, disingenuous with someone he wished to be friends with. Hemingway might have wished Berenson to know that his small masterpiece of The Old Man and The Sea held no symbols or metaphors but the opposite is actually true. Sure, it�s a pretty good fishing story but what makes it resonate are the multiple meanings that may be teased from it. I believe it was done on purpose but by saying that I mean that by using "true simple declarative sentences," Hemingway was able to achieve the effects he wanted. (There�s an interview/article/letter where he admits he used the tool of simple declarative sentences because he knew he wasn�t a great stylist. By using these kinds of sentences, it became his style.)
That's exactly how I see it. The fact that he wrote with the intent to tell the truth as he saw it doesn't necessarily mean that the phycicality of the events is all the truth the writing reflects. As much as any other writer I'm aware of, Hemingway was very guarded about his image.
It is interesting to me that in "The Old Man and the Sea" there are numerous passages that deal specifically with thinking (as opposed to action), and what the passages seem to reflect is that we are thinking beings, no matter what we want to believe, and no matter how we want to focus on action.
One notable passage is the one where Santiago is reflecting on the kill as he realizes he can't really defend it anymore (except that he ties a knife to the oar and says to himself: "I am still an old man. But I am not unarmed"). The sequence of his thoughts shows the struggle he has with abstraction. He would like to avoid it, but, being human, he simply can't. Neither can Hemingway.
"'Don't think old man', he said aloud. 'Sail on this course and take it when it comes.'
But I must think, he thought. Because it is all I have left'. . .
It is silly not to hope, he thought. Besides, I believe it is a sin. Do not think about sin, he thought. There are enough problems now without sin. Also I have no understanding of it. I have no understanding of it and I am not sure that I believe in it. Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it was even though I did it to keep me alive and feed many people. But then everything is a sin. Do not think about sin. It is much too late for that and there are people who are paid to do it. Let them think about it. You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish. . . But he liked to think about all things that he was involved in and since there was nothing to read and he did not have a radio, he thought much and he kept on thinkinng about sin. . . 'You think too much, old man.')
From THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. Ernest Hemingway. Charles Scribner's Sons, NY. 1952. p. 103-105)
By the way, I'm a big Hemingway fan, also. I've been a member of the Hemingway Society for years now. I love his writing.
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 01-30-2004).]
You mean there's a club I can join? Seriously, I'm glad to find a kindred spirit. But then, we love good writing, don't we, and to love good writing is to love Bradbury and Hemingway. (I'm a bigger fan of his writing than I am of the man himself; flawed, yes, like we all are but probably a more difficult person to like than most. I'd always said I'd like to have been Hemingway but without the baggage. That is, a great writer. Ah, well.)
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