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What Does It Mean?

"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."
~page 99 of Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor

This is one of those many cases where there is no such thing as one true answer. There are many shades of gray in literature. As Foster states in this chapter, different people may view each symbol differently from each other due to different outlooks and life experiences. Trying to find one answer that everyone will agree with simply doesn't work with this. Symbols mean whatever they mean to each individual. Going back to The Scarlet Letter that we just finished reading last week, even some of the characters in the story disputed what the meaning behind the "A" was. All agreed that it initially stood for the adultery committed. That always remained true, but towards the end, the people around Hester started looking at the "A" as a symbol of all the good Hester has done since. Even the fictional characters in the story disputed this. I'm sure as readers, we could come up with an entire list of possible meanings, including the ones mentioned in the story and others such as it stood for the guilt that constantly follows Hester or it stood for all that she's lost.

Comments (1)

Jessica Pierce:

You make a good point, Jennifer. Symbols usually do mean different things to different people. Even characters in a story, like you mentioned, can disagree. We, as readers, just need to accept that there won't always be one clear meaning.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 20, 2009 6:18 PM.

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