Not Always Necessary?
It seems like just about anything can be seen as a symbol in a story, but where do you draw the line? Roberts seems to give some good guidelines throughout chapter ten to let the reader know what could be something that has a double meaning or symbolic nature. However, he seems to also convey that private or contextual symbols are "contextual symbols derive their meanings from the context and the circumstances of individual works" (Roberts 150). Something about trying to recognize symbols in something that is only part of one story or poem sometimes trips me up. The examples given in the book include Poe's clock, which was a fairly obvious symbol to recognize while reading the "Masque of the Red Death," but for other stories things tend to get a bit more complicated. However, Roberts seems to have an answer for this as well with a list of references a reader can use to find out whether or not symbols mean anything. However, he doesn't really offer any solution to symbols used specifically in stories or poems alone. I guess I'll just have to figure that out on my own or hope that they're all as obvious as Poe's clock.
Still, this kind of coincides with chapter sixteen where Roberts talks about historical references and culture. He explains that after first figuring out what whether or not something is historical or from a certain time period the reader must then "determine what has been created by the author of the work from ideas prevalent at the time of composition" (234). Because of this, a reader may take something to mean one way because of the time period, but the author may have intended something to be a little different. In Karyssa's blog, she references The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which explains some of the deeper meaning behind the book and how by just looking at the surface you miss the entire point.
I thought that although a reader may read a lot into the time of a particular story, some stories and poems are timeless and can be applied to any time period regardless of what may have been occurring during the original publishing date of the work. For example, the plays that Shakespeare wrote have been done in a variety of different ways including a contemporary version. Because there are so many themes and timeless ideas that still apply to people today, the story loses virtually nothing by putting it in a contemporary setting. Because of this, the historical references are not always necessary to understanding what is taking place between the characters and overall points Shakespeare was attempting to make. Therefore, I think that although the historical and cultural context can be important to a story or poem or play, it can also hinder the work, too. By focusing too much on the time period, sometimes the reader can miss interpret something or view a part of the text in a different way.
Regardless of time period or cultural influence, sometimes looking for the symbols or underlining messages in a story or poem can end up just making the whole story more complicated. Sometimes just taking things at face value can be good for the first read through of something. However, certain objects may jump out to a reader to represent something else or while reading the reader determines that he or she cannot figure out what is taking place without figuring out what was going on during a certain time period, then perhaps a reader should begin diving deeper into the underlining meaning. Now, not in all instances should this occur, but sometimes the best way to read a story to form an opinion without the references to compare it to how a reader better understands the text after gaining the other necessary information to really understand what is taking place.