Why Would an Author Write The Way He (or she!) Did?

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"The selection and the order of the details in a literary work are crucial to its meaning and tone.  Because the form of a poem, a play or a work of fiction may look so inevitable and move so smoothly on the page, it is easy to forget that the work is the product of a series of deliberate choices that the author makes in the course of drafting and revising it" (Hamilton 99)

This quote reminded me of how all of my English teachers have told me time and time again that everything that authors do is for a reason.  That every single detail and little word was for a purpose, that all that imagery and symbolism in Les Miserables wasn't there by accident.  Although I know this, sometimes I still question it and I definitely still question it. Why would an author want to have tons of examples of symbolism.  I mean, I write stories and I don't think that my characters or settings or situations have any symbolism.  Maybe I'm just not trying hard enough.  But I remember joking with my friends in my English class one year that we were going to write a book chock full of symbolism, just so that future English classes could dissect it and rip it apart to get every tiny detail.  So maybe that's what some authors chose to do -- although I really doubt it.

2 Comments

Symbolism is not the only way to put meaning into a story, so I do not think it would be accurate to say authors put in symbolism simply so that they can be symbolic; but pretty much all professional writers would agree that good writing is very deliberate. Good writers work hard at their craft, and symbolism is one of many tools authors can use.

Erica Gearhart said:

I used to agree with you completely. I thought "If I ever write a story, I don't want people to constantly rip it apart looking for obscure meaning that is not really intended." However, I now think that purposely including symbolism, diction, imagery, and all other sorts of literary devices that promote in-depth meanings is a way of taking your writing to a new level. Sometimes it is wonderful to just read a book, poem, or other literary work for the pure enjoyment of the story, but all of the literature we read in class we read not only for enjoyment, but also to analyze the author's technique. If I were ever to publish something, I would want my readers not only to enjoy the story, but also to praise it for my literary skill, so maybe this is why some writers write the way they do.

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