The Big Bad Wold Is Heartless

2752 words - 12 pages

Dear Reader,
Below you will find my intellectual journey as I have undergone a critical reflection on various forms of interpretations of children’s literature. This paper is essentially an academic endeavor, but it does differ from an academic essay in that the conclusion is reached in the same way an insight is formed: by starting out with an idea, thesis, antithesis and finally sublation. The resolution is an epiphany of sorts that, like a quest, comes only at the end, after having undergone various trials. I would like to think that this piece of writing exhibits the point I wish to instill: the necessity of imaginative freedom in myth.
Let Absurdity Reign
Erich Fromm interprets the ...view middle of the document...

Maria Tatar frames the consequences of this plethora of interpretations beautifully: “Allegorical readings tend to undermine and discredit each other by their very multiplicity”(CFT 8). With so many directions and such variety of interpretations the reader is left stranded in the woods. He is left only to question at which point he will pull the proverbial plug and judge an interpretation as just too absurd.
At first this prompts the rather intuitive idea that the solution to the beast of close reading should lie in rules established by a comprehensive, complete and sound set of logical axioms. A mechanism of this sort could easily delineate valid (a reader’s right to an interpretation) and sound (plausible/ ‘correct’) interpretations from invalid and unsound ones and thereby ensures some uniformity. A briefly described positive account might recommend limiting interpretations to concepts contained only within the texts themselves. For example, consider Anne Sexton’s concept of the wolf’s “womb envy”. She employs in her interpretation a concept that is external to the text itself. What I mean is that, contained within in the act of the wolf swallowing Little Red and her grandmother, one only has the concepts of an unsafe place, hunger, satiation and stomach (as some of the main ones). Sexton adds the concepts of conception and envy, which are concepts clearly exterior to the tale and not contained within any of the above-mentioned words themselves. It seems even odder when one considers that he, the wolf, is at no point clearly stated as being driven by either envy or any form of maternal impulses (concepts clearly contained within the idea of conception and paternal love, which the wolf does not exhibit). Instead of staying within the concepts contained within the tale she grafts others onto them. This act of indeterminate grafting is what causes the multiplicity of interpretations, because one could, in theory, graft almost any external concept onto another.
However, this positive account fails in a major regard: it cannot undermine the validity of any interpretation, only its soundness. Bettelheim, Freud, Sexton, Tatar, Fromm, Kogl may all give their own interpretations of these tales, neither one being any less or more valid than another’s. Every reader has the right to take from and interpret a story for himself as he sees fit. This is a fundamental right of the readers and should not be encroached upon. It is within the purely subjective experience of the reader to create the world and the message he derives from it. The expanse of the world cannot be constrained through logical axioms, even though rules may govern the interaction of the reader with the world imagined. This means that there might be certain rules governing the how to play, rules for engagement between world and individual, but no rules, which limit the scope and possibilities that the world may be envisioned. There could and should be the possibility of dragons and...

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