Everything is Not a Commentary (How Not to Read a Book)

Everything is Not a Commentary (How Not to Read a Book)

I’ve been thinking about perceptions lately. It takes me back to my literature classes in college. I remember being enamored by the idea of metaphor, by the idea that I was seeing something of the writer’s mind – something that wasn’t quite there on the paper, but something the author was perhaps hinting at.

It ruined me as a reader.

How Not to Read a Book

My husband and I are re-watching the series Vikings lately. It’s been quite the experience. For one, I am struck by how much more on the second viewing, I am beginning to see the characters as just themselves – fictional, with maybe some historical setting, but fictional – and less as representations of something else.

I think the reason many people get in arms about books lately is because they’ve been taught that everything represents something else. Everyone is a symbol, we’re told. What is the author really trying to say here?

Sorry, Freud, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Everything is Not a Symbol or a Commentary

I think it’s important I teach my children this as they read. Sometimes a story can just be a story.

I can be frustrated with Athelstan (fictional, remember) as a character in Vikings, for instance, as a mealy-mouthed priest caught in the crosshairs of his crisis of dual faith, worshiping both Odin and Christ. I can even be irritated at the fictional representation of King Ecbert (fictional – don’t forget!) for being enamored by pagan customs without making the leap into anger at the people who wrote the story to show Christianity as weak and powerless. (By the way, I write this as a Christian, in case anyone is wondering.)

That’s just an example off the top of my head, but there are countless others. Just consider this list of books banned worldwide. Consider that we are now scrubbing all politically incorrect messages out of literature. Consider that Sweden is now burning copies of Pippi Longstocking because she “broke too many rules.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.


Why all the uproar? Is it because we believe we think too much and therefore see deeper into the text and others see too little? As homeschoolers, at least, we should be above this. After all, the homeschoolers I know and respect are the ones least afraid of conversations with their children.

Stop shunning books because you’re afraid of the symbolism in them or what they represent. Instead, hate them or love them for what they are. 

Everything is not a metaphor.

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at http://TheClassicalUnschooler.com – unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

1 thought on “Everything is Not a Commentary (How Not to Read a Book)”

  1. Yeah, I always read stories as stories. I’ve never tried to analyze or make my kids analyze literature, with the exception of Disney movies.

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