By Tom Warner
When you find a book that you enjoy reading, you generally appreciate certain aspects of how it has been written. One example would be the creation of a character identity and how that affects you. Another may be the problems that are tackled by the characters or narrator within the plot. The question is: would you still see these features for what they are, after completing an in-depth analysis of the ‘themes’ or ‘representations’?
The theme of a book could be used to represent a common problem that we all face, so that the characters and the audience are connected. Certain personalities could also be displayed in the book that mirror those in society. This angle is sometimes thought of as a step towards the true understanding of an author’s creative choices. Alternatively, it could be seen as evidence of ‘over thinking’ and a sense of desperation for meaning, on the part of the reader. There does not always need to be a specific moral message behind the story. Sure the content may relate to our lives to grab our attention, but a life lesson or concept does not always have to be present.
In some cases it can be understood that there is always a political or cultural agenda behind a classic novel, but in other interpretations it can sometimes ruin the reading of that text forever. If the themes have been analysed, then it may be impossible to un-see that approach when reading that piece of writing. Take Great Expectations by Charles Dickens; the story itself may be interesting to some, but once the colour of characters’ clothes is said to display their personality or their mental state, it could always be seen in that way. The only way to find out what an author was really thinking is to ask them directly, if possible.
This can further apply to films such as The Sixth Sense. Both approaches can be used to recognise the merit of the text itself, alongside the underlying meaning.