Symbolism In Reading Literature

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Reading literature invokes the most intellectual recesses of the human mind. At face value, a story is a thread of plot points or events or happenings; anyone with the simple abilities of reading and remembering can follow a story from its first page to its last, but this mere action, to follow a story, draws no merit, for the true labour in reading literature lies in understanding the meaning beneath each word. One skeptical advocate may suppose that there exists no ulterior meaning to the events that unfold in a body of literature; Thomas C. Foster in his book, How to Read Literature like a Professor, argues on the contrary. Writers of literature carefully and intelligently compose their work with the sole purpose to weave layers upon layers …show more content…
This perplexity is the result of the strenuous ponderation of what a symbol could mean. Properly ascertaining this profound meaning requires a mental toolbox which includes “questions, experience, and pre-existing knowledge” (Foster 78). Because of the individual-specific variance of what is inside each person’s toolbox, each person’s interpretation of a symbol will typically vary. Readers most often find symbolism in objects. For example, in the novel Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield carries around a hunting hat; through analyzing, readers can deduct that the hat symbolizes Holden’s individuality and genuine personality, for Holden only wears his hunting hat in his most private, intimate moments. Through the use of this symbolism, readers can identify Holden’s inner conflicts, that he wishes to wear his hat and express himself freely in the public yet feels compelled to conceal his individuality. Foster acknowledges that some readers seldom find symbolism in actions (81). In the case of The Catcher in the Rye, a notable instance of symbolic action occurs at the end of the book when Holden’s sister, Phoebe, plops the hunting hat on Holden’s head; this display signifies Phoebe's level of intimacy with Holden and that she accepts him for who he is. At his lowest point in the book, this reminds Holden to keep endeavoring in wearing his hat and his identity proudly. Interpreting symbolism as a reader is about climbing up to the writers’ level and staring them eye to eye, matching imagination and creativity; it may be onerous to understand a particular symbol, but effort facilitates

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