CCA Pulse Magazine
Reading into Things | Ariana Thompson
If you’ve ever expressed an interest in English, you’ve probably heard something to the effect of, “maybe the curtains are just blue”. While the phrase isn’t usually expressed exactly like this, it seems that the idea that you’re ‘reading too much into it’ or ‘taking things too seriously’ is one of the most common ways to dismiss critical analysis in reading.
While criticism of over-analysis is often pretty valid, the argument that curtains are simply blue doesn’t always come from a place of good faith. In a lot of ways the perspective completely dismisses the idea of reading for a larger purpose, or the idea that there are deeper themes to life that can be discovered and explored through introspection. To someone who doesn’t think very deeply about media, someone putting in the effort to discover aspects of a story and interpret them using context and their own understanding can come off as looking too deeply into things.
But why shouldn’t we look so deeply? By engaging with stories we can discover more about the world around us and other people’s perspectives on it. Media, in general, is worthwhile not just because it's entertaining, but also because it says something. Whether it's books, movies, or TV, the best of these mediums use symbolism, allusions, and other types of figurative language to convey a message. While the color of the curtains might at first seem trivial, upon closer analysis, you’ll often find it actually full of meaning.
Despite being one of the most economically prosperous nations in the world, the United States ranks 14th in education, with reading being particularly poorly rated. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 130 million American adults read below a sixth-grade level. In eschewing reading for deeper meaning we make our reading comprehension problem worse. Obviously reading is going to be more difficult when people reject the idea that there is hidden meaning in what they read. Poor reading levels will also reinforce this decision, with potential readers unable to continue to more advanced books.
What’s wonderful about critical analysis is that you can interpret things however you like. Even if a creator doesn’t agree with a certain judgment about their work, the idea of death of the author gives readers the ability to decide for themselves what the work means to them. A vast ocean of possibilities is opened up to anyone who decides for themselves just why the curtains are blue.
Critical analysis should not be regarded as unimportant. Within stories objects often have meaning beyond that of just their physical manifestation. Through exploring their meaning you might discover more not only about other perspectives but also about yourself.