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Do Authors Intend to Create Symbols and Themes in their Work?

When Samuel Beckett was asked what "Waiting for Godot" really meant, he waved a hand and said it was merely a play about two men waiting. But it is clearly so much more. Or is it? Do we over-analyze authors’ simple ideas or do they purposefully sneak in symbols and themes for readers to uncover?

  • An interesting idea, and the argument could be made that we tend to over-analyze an author's ideas. As Nick Carraway said in "The Great Gatsby," the billboard of T.J. Eckleburg is just a billboard, not the eyes of God. – jgwilson 6 years ago
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  • As an English student going into the world of teaching literature, this is an incredibly relevant question that touches on many aspects of literary and textual criticism. Another question could be who or what holds the authority and authoritative power in a work--is it the author, such as Beckett? Does he know definitively whether his work is symbolic or not? Or it is a question of the individual reader and their unique experiences that color the way that the work is read and perceived? Or is the perception of symbolism and hidden themes indicative of the time period in which the work was written? For example, if a writer writing during World War I composes a poem about something that has nothing to do with war, should we read the imagery in that poem as relating to war? It might be interesting to take a selection of authors or works as a case study for this fascinating debate. – Rachel Watson 6 years ago
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  • This article potentially touches on some points which would be relevant to this article, for whoever wishes to pick this up: https://the-artifice.com/relevance-of-fan-theories/ – Matthew Sims 6 years ago
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  • Some authors put in symbols intentionally, especially when it comes to religious imagery (J.K. Rowling) but honestly I find that the most powerful symbols are that which authors write without knowing. As a writer when I put something in on purpose it feels forced because too much attention is drawn to it, but sometimes when someone else reads your story they'll ask "what did this object really mean?" and you find yourself already knowing the answer unconsciously. This article could go multiple ways to explore instances of people over analyzing/under analyzing symbols in literature, even whether a symbol like the colour red has an inherent cross-cultural value or if as Rachel Watson says, the work is a cultural product of certain time and red means many things to many people depending when and where they read it. – Slaidey 6 years ago
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  • I find myself constantly searching for themes and symbols relevant to my own experience when I read. Perhaps this is part of my own biased judgment deficiency. However, I don't necessarily believe the authors' intentions are tailored to my need to relate on a personal level. Personally, I write what I am inspired to write in the moment. There is, no doubt, someone who will analyze what I've written - to death - but if that is the case, I am beyond satisfied. It means I got to someone, and for a novice writer like myself, that's more than I can ever ask for. Interpretation is up to the reader himself, not what the author believes the reader will interpret. – PaulieWawg 6 years ago
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