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The Fraud That is Literature: Debunking Symbolism in Literature

There are a few things in life I like to do. I like to hunt, I like to fish, I like to eat, I like to shoot the breeze and, you know, bullshit. 

Speaking of B.S., this reminds me of a thought that popped into my head recently: what if it’s all for nothing? Bear with me, this isn’t some existentialist rant. It started as I was trudging through my excruciatingly boring 8 a.m. statistics class. I obviously wasn’t paying attention because I never do at 8a.m. 

As I was sitting there, I looked at the book we were reading for my American Literature class. 

Every English class I’ve ever been in consisted of listening to the professor talk about all this hidden symbolism and meaning and all that stuff. I sat there and thought to myself: what if all that stuff is just bullshit?

I mean, what if there is no deep meaning behind all this stuff? 

Sometimes I don’t think there is. 

What if old Ernest just got drunk one night after an unsuccessful day on the water and decided to write about some old man who catches the biggest marlin in the history of marlins, and dies when he finally gets it back to land? (I do not really know if he dies or not, he tastes copper in his mouth, so I guess he did. Who cares?) 

Maybe the marlin is not meant to symbolize Santiago’s alter ego, his rebirth and youthfulness and all that. Maybe it’s not that deep. What if the marlin was meant to symbolize a marlin, hmm? 

Let me give you another example. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” the owl-eyed man who chills up in Gatsby’s library is meant, supposedly, to symbolize wisdom, and foreshadow the death that ultimately occurs at the end of the book (no spoilers here).

What if F. Scott Fitzgerald just wanted to put this creepy old character in the book because he just had to be there? Think about it: almost every party has that one older guy, creepily hanging out in the corner. He’s like David Wooderson from “Dazed and Confused.” 

Or from the same book, people say the reason Daisy had a white car and wore white all the time was because she was perfect — honorable and unblemished and all that. What if Daisy just liked the color white? C’mon people. 

There are thousands more examples from literature, especially modern literature and even art that I could go into. Art especially. All these art critics and scholars are always talking about the deeper meaning and relevance in all

these pictures. 

I mean, what if Van Gogh sat down one day and said, “Hey, Imma paint a night sky, yeah that’d be cool, I’ve only got one ear so I can’t fully enjoy my Spotify starry night playlist, but that’s ok imma keep on painting.” 

I don’t think he was paving the way for expressionism; I think he was just looking out the window one night and said, “Why not?”

Art for art’s sake is a concept that begs to be considered in the average college classroom. Even if it’s just to get guys like me listening in early morning classes. 

If anything I said in this article is true, every one of my literature teacher’s lives have been a lie. That is a scary thought — not for me, but for them. I could care less, but some of these people could be making their living off of total BS. Scary huh? 

*this is a parody article that does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tiger* 

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