Sunday, October 5, 2008

Inevitability and One of its Many Digressions

The inevitability that life shall end in death is a baffling, often depressing topic. The author of “Happy Endings” has the courage to point out the fact that, due to the monotonous nature of humanity’s eventual end, it is not the conclusion which is important, but rather what comes between the beginning and the end which matters. This inevitability and, consequently, critique of free will, is evident and manifested within the short story “7C.” The culmination of the story, the destruction of the known universe (or at least of the world on which we find ourselves), is not a mystery to the narrator. What is a mystery, though, is precisely how he got there. I’m going to digress a bit here, but this forces me to recall the idea that, if one reads the final page of a book without first having read each page which leads up to the conclusion, one has somehow ‘ruined’ the book. On the contrary, I would argue that reading the ending is often (but not always) a method through which one might garner a better understanding of said book. By holding knowledge of the conclusion of a plot, one is freed from the tedious (okay, I’ll admit, exciting) process of attempting to predict said conclusion and, subsequently, to specifically look for and focus on those elements within the plot which either prove or disprove your prediction. With knowledge, one is not reduced to a narrow field of focus involving plot elements, and is able instead to focus on broader, more enlightening subjects such as themes, both underlying and specific, character development, and even (gasp!) writing style.
Alright, so perhaps reading the ending before one has read the bread and butter of the literature is a bit depressing. Maybe, though, we might reconcile the joy of plot with the joy(?) of deep, thorough analysis through one of two ways. Our first option is to develop two separate reading methods: one for pleasure and one for College level English. Allow me to elaborate. When reading for pleasure, feel free to focus only on plot, but when reading for class, be sure to discount your own emotions from the process and search for what your teacher wants. The second option (and in my opinion the one which is far more practical and, more importantly, applicable to post-college years) is to hybridize your pleasure with your work. I use the term hybridize very loosely, as I believe this method in no way decreases your enjoyment, but actually magnifies it. When you are able to reach a level of reading on which you are able to both interpret a text in terms of theme and undertone as well as take pleasure in the more basic elements of plot, your enjoyment of the literature will increase at least two-fold. You will have achieved at the very least what a major in English is meant to instill, but more probably you will have gained a life skill which will ensure success (at least as a literary critic).

1 comment:

Juan Cricco said...

Ian may be right about the so called hybrid mode of reading. It is probably what we should all do if we were serious minded readers. I would argue that one can never really read without such a mode. Yes, one reads for pleasure with nothing but the plot in mind,but is that the only reason we derive pleasure from reading? I for one think that finding out what happens next is not where one derives the pleasure. One may not exactly be looking out for themes and symbols, or actively appreciating the writer's style, yet these are factors that lead to one liking or disliking what is being read. Hope this makes sense.