Over-analyzing Literature

There’s said to be three ways a book is analyzed; by what the author meant, by what the teacher thinks the author meant and by what the fan thinks the author meant.

Whenever we read we overanalyze books by over-reaching, searching for something that doesn’t exist. Trying to give every little detail a meaning like the author intended it.

In English class I remember reading a poem that spoke of a black bird. The teacher begins to tell us about how the bird represents death because of it’s dark colour and it’s really used as symbolism for a persons life coming to an end. I find it hard to believe that they know exactly what the author was thinking at that moment when really they just chose a black bird because they like the way it sounded or that’s their favourite colour.

Then there’s the fans thoughts on what the author meant. Based on their favourite couples and characters they seem to find hints and foreshadowing out of words that aren’t there. The funny thing is that it always seems to make sense when they explain it to you, more so than the teacher’s thoughts.

I always think back to grade 8 when we read Speak in class and I absolutely hated it. It was an amazing book don’t get me wrong but being forced to read something I didn’t want to and having to analyze it by answering a million questions completely ruined it. Schools have a way of taking something that should’ve be great and turning it into something you hate.

What are we really learning if we’re creating meanings for books that aren’t there?

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6 thoughts on “Over-analyzing Literature

  1. This is interesting. I agree that analyzing a book in class can ruin it. Last year, we read Brave New World in school and analyzing it kind of destroyed it. While searching for meaning and for the author’s message I feel we strayed from what the author intended the book to be about. While it was clearly a satire on the concept of utopia, and was presented in a very unique and creative way, reading it for school made it into work.

    However, I disagree with your final statement. Often, we are not creating meanings but exploring them. I will use Brave New World here again. We did not create the Shakespearean patterns that were present, the author placed them there to add meaning. Though I do suppose meaning is sometimes created, especially when we need a story to fit some topic and we are running out of time to finish our essay.

  2. I definitely agree with your point of not trying to make sense of something that isn’t there just because you are being told to look for it. It makes reading something fun a task. I often think that the character is wearing a blue shirt cause that’s the authors favourite colour, not because the character is subconsciously depressed even when they are out having a great time.

    At the same time, I do think that some authors do occasionally leave little bits of symbolism here and there, especially when dealing with more poetic styles. And if you are capable of understanding the clues they leave behind, you will have a deeper and more meaningful experience with the text.

    Great article 🙂 I really enjoyed it.

  3. Really interesting take on the value of writing and how to dive into a book and other text more meaningfully. You are 100% right with the fact that people need to evaluate the text in their own minds and really work out things for themselves. Teaching is half the work.

    Great article.

  4. I like that you explained the different views people can have on a book, and it’s true, sometimes when you are forced to read something in class, you are directed towards the direction the teacher wants. You could have your own thoughts about a story, but over analyzing can either make you see something differently or feel forced that you’re “supposed to” to think a certain way.
    Great Blog!

  5. I agree, that when analyzing a book, you are more driven in the direction a teacher wants you to interrupt the book . And in the process, of doing so, you do start to hate continuing a book, you might have once loved.

    However, I think the point to analyzing meanings to books that aren’t there( Brave New World, Lord of the Flies,Huron of the Sea of Stories) is to make connections to situations of the real world of similarities and see how things can end up; an eye opener through a set of morals.

    For example; Lord of the Flies(in my opinion) shows us how the humanist beings(the innocent children) when isolated away from a civilized society can become extremely beastly, putting everyone at a state of danger.

    Overall, a great intro, a good set of connections to school and a nice ending. 🙂

  6. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve never had this experience that most high school students appear to be able to relate to and connect with, but I don’t see the over-analysis of literature taking place in schools.

    In English class we study texts, and we analyse them through different lenses whether that be Freudian, Jungian, or even mythological. Teachers don’t just make up what things means, and how you should interpret them. They follow structured ideas and theories on different ways to interpret a piece of literature. We all know that in mythological criticism, winter represents darkness and the fall of the hero. In some stories, it may just merely be winter. That doesn’t always indicate that an over-analysis is taking place, but merely that the literature is being studied with a certain lens, that interprets symbols a certain way.

    But I do however appreciate your point that everyone thinks something different when they read a piece of literature. How the author, the reader, and a teacher can all see different things from the same words. It reminds us that we are all unique and the way we think cannot be controlled.

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