We were discussing symbols on a writer’s loop the other day, and I, like others, hooted at English Lit teachers’ harping on the symbolism of stories as if finding complicated undertext somehow made reading fiction important.
Don’t get me wrong, I think reading of any kind is important. Fiction opens up whole new worlds, widens the mind and the imagination, and let’s us take a break from our own grim realities for a while. It’s just, I never thought stories needed to be shredded into pieces to find what was never intended to be there.
Did Fitzgerald add the green lantern because it symbolized something or because he thought it would give Lit teachers something to talk about? The story was fine on its own. Does the average reader even care what the light meant? And is it just selfish intellectual exercise to add symbols because a writer knows he can? Does it add to the reading experience?
Whether Lit teacher overreaching or intellectual exercise, I scoffed at symbols. Then today, as I revised my current contemporary romance, I stumbled across a symbol. Or what could be a symbol if I worked at it. I love parallels but hate games, so I’m not sure if I want to expand a lovely bit of characterization into a symbol paralleling the heroine’s life. How many readers would honestly care? Or even get it? And if readers don’t notice, what’s the point except my own intellectual exercise?
So I think I’ll leave it for Lit teachers to guess.
Friday's Odds and Ends
1 day ago