Interpreting Literature


While reading Herman Wouk's classic tale, "The Winds of
War", I came across several passages describing a young
man's vision of Germany. Although the author supplies me
with his ideas, his desire and his provocative details on
how this young Major views Germany at the time of the
Second World War, I still find myself wondering and
questioning aspects of the written text before me. Apart
from being drawn from my subconscious state to a more
subtle and unconscious condition, several questions begin
to form within my mind. What does Germany look like? What
were the political conditions? What did the SS
Stormtroopers look like? What did a concentration camp
reveal? By triggering these sensors and somewhat emotional
queries within me, the author has already caused a
clockwork cycle to commence which will enlighten my reading
and eventually create enjoyment and furthering interests
with his novel. This is the focus of Virginia Woolf's
After reading her essay, I came to understand her theory
that it is best not to accept advice from another person on
how to read literature, since the best advice is no advice
at all. Woolf expresses the thought that when one begins to
read literature, he/she begins to enter different stages of
interpretation that will ultimately improve his/her
pleasure and satisfaction. It was obvious to me that I had
in fact indulged in forms of interpretation when reading
literature, but it had never dawned on me that I was
performing this act until reading Woolf's essay. 

Whenever I am subjected to something in literature that is
not fully understandable to me, I begin to engage in
several different forms of interpretation. The first stage
would reflect much of the philosophy expressed in the essay
'Against Interpretation' whereas I, the reader, would
observe the content and then translate the form. Literature
induces the reader to use his/her experience and memories
to comprehend what a person, place or thing is and then
interpret it. The second stage would involve translating,
where one begins a comparison sequence by linking their
past knowledge with the subject introduced by the author.
It is this comparison which creates a variation of ways in
which every person reads or understands literature. 

Therefore, each individual is different in respects to
forms of interpretation based on their past experiences and
knowledge. It can be true to say that every man is only
made up of his memories. I would therefore agree with
Woolf's analogy that there is no greater gift than that of
literature. I often find myself so deeply absorbed in a
novel that the world constructed within my mind, through my
unique form of interpretation, is so realistic that I
cannot stop reading the book. My entire being is enthralled
by the work of this particular author who, through his/her
style and form of writing, has managed to throw me into an
abyss of subconscious interpretation. 

Woolf stresses the importance of how each individual
creates different visions and reactions to literature that
lead to a conclusion brought upon their own methods of
interpretation. Although my own method of reading has not
been altered after reading her essay, it allows me to put
the whole concept of literature into perspective and how it
affects me in life. I have begun contemplating the
different characteristics involved in creative writing and
how every person who reads literature will analyze it. 

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