I have never understood the purpose of digging about symbolism in an author’s work, and comparing the symbolism in 2 authors’ works seems even more of an exercise in academic futility. Perhaps this is a neurological flaw, as I am hardwired more toward logical pursuits: words are logical symbols for objects, emotions, events, etc. Comparison of the symbolism in two disparate works or two authors seemed at best a logical fallacy and at worst an invasive and unprofessional psychological case study of what goes on in a writer’s head.
I don’t mean to sound like a “wiseass.” One professor of mine in college almost succeeded in killing any love I had for literature–and short-stories in particular–by pointing out ad museum every “symbol.” I remember seething as he stood in front of the class dissecting Flannery O’Connor: She is a guy who probably hadn’t left Brooklyn until he entered Harvard, and had spent most of his life in the rarefied environment of academia. Did he honestly know anything about the life of a 40-something, intelligent, articulate woman who lived in the South; where women were traditionally dependent on the men with whom they were affiliated for protection and their identities; where a woman’s opinion an politics or social issues were insignificant?
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I could not see how he possibly arrived at his conclusions–which I’ve forgotten or blocked. : At the risk of branding myself as a plebian from the cultural wasteland, I missed the point of searching for symbolism. Is there a point–other than assigning a grade–to parsing a writer’s words for symbolism? And assuming there is, who’s to say that the symbolism perceived by anyone doctoral candidate is even valid if there’s no corroboration from the writer about what was actually going on in his mind at a given point in a story. If you dwell on such things long enough don’t you risk seeing things that just aren’t there?