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On the process of critical analysis

If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself.

A powerful quote from Bob Dylan. It reminds me of Billy Collins.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Recent analysis in the reading literature class got me thinking about this point. Are we really doing justice to the piece of literature that we are reading by analyzing it? Or are we not doing justice to what the author had planned for us.

In our constant process of finding meaning in everything, we tend to find a little too much meaning in everything. So much that sometimes I feel that most of us are like the portrayal of John Nash in the movie, A beautiful mind. Of course, we do not imagine that the CIA has engaged us to find hidden messages in newspapers, but we do tend to try find meaning in everything. Be it in the behaviour of our friends, or in any picture that we see, or movies, or songs, or books. The list is endless.

But how accurate are the meanings that we claim to derive? I remember that once, my art teacher in school assigned us an assignment involving abstract art. So we simply took some paint, splattered it across the page, and by some luck, if you twisted your head in a particular way, you might see a human like form. The piece was deemed to symbolize unity in diversity, and we were acclaimed as the best group of artists (can there be a group, seriously?) and the splatter was on the art corner of the school for a week.

Now, the above example was not to just dismiss abstract art. I respect art deeply, but I do not like trying to find meaning where none exist. The same exists for literature. Recently, we were analysing Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht. This was put as an example of epic theatre, wherein the author tries to distance the characters from the audience. I do not really understand much of this. If Galileo, in the first scene is shown washing himself, how is this a distancing device? What I do know, however, is that the effect of reading the play was fantastic, and we could imagine the dramatization of the play. Is the latter not what the author desired more than the former? That we enjoy his play, be it epic theatre, or realistic theatre, or the theatre of the absurd?

I remember a quote by Don McLean when asked about his song American Pie, You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me... sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.

That is the way he intended the song to be. Just a song dedicated to Buddy Holly. It is us who seek meaning from it, seek answers to our problems. I believe this is how we should view most of the stuff in the world, accept things the way they are, and not beat it with a hose to fine out what it means.

So, read this piece for what it is. There is no hidden meaning in between the lines, I assure you.

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