More Than One Right Answer

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“We want it to mean something, don’t we?  More than that, we want it to mean some thing, one thing for all of us and for all time.  That would be easy, convenient, manageable for us.  But that handiness would result in a net loss: the novel would cease to be what it is, a network of meanings and significations that permits a nearly limitless range of possible interpretations” (Foster 99). 

Foster, in Chapter 12, pins my feelings down to the letter.  I want there to be one right answer, I want it to be clear and simple.  And up till recently, really, I thought it was.  I thought there was one right answer.  If I believed something different than the teacher, I figured I must be wrong.  But Foster really does make a good point, even if I couldn’t figure out what the “correct” analysis of the symbol was, it still added to the book, and drew me and others to it. If we try to pigeon-hole the symbol into meaning only one thing, we take away a huge part of the novel.  It is no longer as universal if we cage it into meaning one thing, because we are insisting there is only one right answer.  But literature, like the lives it tells of, does not have one specific answer or explanation. 


Angela Palumbo said:

I completely agree with you and Foster, Greta. I actually find it unsettling that there are multiple correct answers because it is just so much easier for there to be one right answer. That way you can say, “Darn, I was so close but just missed getting the answer by a little.” But no, in literature, it’s an argument. You have to be willing to argue your point or else you will be proven wrong. I have to admit that I hate this. As a person, I am generally non-confrontational (Don’t ask my parents about this though).
On the bright side, it is nice to know that if you can find adequate support, you can argue that you are right. And really, who doesn’t like to be right?

Yes, you guys are both getting the point.

We study literature not do determine whether Hamlet was "really" mad or sane -- since the Hamlet in Shakespeare's play is not a real person with a real brain that could be measured and tested; the Hamlet in Shakespeare's play exists only in the few hours worth of words that Shakespeare chose to include in his play.

We study literature in order to develop our ability to argue. Not in the sense of petty bickering or name-calling; but rather, using evidence to help us identify which, out of all the possible interpretations, are reasonable; and which, out of all the reasonable interpretations, are best supported by the available evidence.

Of course we expect a good book to wrap up all its loose ends, but great books haunt us for years because we know we don't yet understand them (and probably never will).

Kaitlin Monier said:

I actually really like that there is more than one answer to literature. If there was only one answer, there would be no depth. One of the most interesting thing in reading is that out of twenty people reading the same thing, there can be twenty different different versions of meaning.

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