A Reader Must Stay on Course


"Actual readers must be astute enough to resist the "temptations" of racism and struggle to stave off of the seductions of the narrator and Delano's self-serving misinterpretations" (O'Connell 191).

I understood this quote as, in order for an audience to gain a full understanding of the text, if they can, they must move apart from their initial assumptions or poetic references and stay focused on the story or text as a whole.

This essay reminded me a lot of Isers because the "implied or ideal" reader that is mentioned in both.

"Benito Cereno" is a text that challenges the reader with its language, but also through its references that many readers refer to quickly. For example, racism is a strong part of the story. There are many slaves and negative connotations being mentioned about the African American community. Melville is using that as a distraction in order to make the reader get off course from the true meaning of the text.

Can anyone be an ideal or implied reader?

When I answer this question, I think that it would be a computer because I do not know of a human that would not focus on a poetic style or reference while reading. A human mind, while reading, navigates through the text looking for learned literary techniques that many authors use.

Is Melville trying to persuade the reader from its true meaning, through references about African Americans and Delano's character, or is their a true meaning?

Click here for the course web page devoted to O'Connell.


I'm going to answer your question with a question. Derek...what is the one true meaning? Are the "distractions" actually supposed to be attractions? I believe that we are supposed to see these inadequacies and embrace them. I can't exactly tell you why, but that's just what I think. What do you think Derek or anyone else that responds?

I also do not think that there is specifically one true meaning to any text or piece of literature.

Your probe question of are the "distractions" suppose to be "attractions" is a great way to put it! I think that Melville may have intended the distractions to lure the reader in or maybe to present certain situations in interesting ways similar to an attraction, but in the end the attraction was only intended to persuade the reader from the author’s intention.

So, I will throw a question back to you - I don't want to be monotonous, but this is great interaction and learning.

If the so-called distractions are necessary in a text, then how can we strive away from them while reading? Or is it human nature that pulls us to these wonderful poetic styles and writing techniques?

I guess the best way, I can think of at least, to remember what is going on before the so-called distraction is to highlight it. As I read, I'm constantly (much to my dismay...I actually hate marking up my text) highlighting and writing notes in the margins. If I notice a distraction, and I usually probably don't notice it, I will highlight what we're being distracted from. I'll even write a note to try to make sure I know what track the author needs to get back on.

When you do this, it is easier to figure out why a distraction is put there and what purpose it serves to the text as a whole.

What do you think, Derek? What is your answer to your own question?

Good idea about highlight because it would keep the reader focused on a specific topic instead of many. I usually underline or notate specific words or phrases that I believe are intended to protray and have significant meaning.

I agree with you in answering my question. I think that a reader should try and "mark up the text," as many of our professors say, because it shows how we are engaging with the text. This not only allows us to quickly remember things when we glance at our notes, but it shows us how we are staying on topic instead of letting the author's intended or not intended distractions affect us.

I will throw a question back at you (with little force, but strong criticism)!

Does there need to be an ideal or implied reader when completing criticism?

I think that one cannot simply exist when we are reading. Only after we have finished reading the text can we create that "ideal" reader. What do you think?

I also think that "one" cannot simply exist while reading. If we have not read a text, or don't know a text, then how could we know what to criticize? The ideal reader can only be effective once the reader has an understanding of what the author was trying to intend.

Do you think that an ideal reader can exist before we read the text?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on February 20, 2009 8:51 PM.

Male vs. Female - Who is better... was the previous entry in this blog.

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