Flannery O’Connor: “I am in a state of shock”

There’s often a moment in a lit class when a student says, “Since the professor says there’s no single ‘correct’ interpretation of a story, then pretty much anything goes, so I’m going to argue ‘Huck was a girl’ or ‘Hester was a witch.’ ”

Of all the possible “correct” answers, the stronger ones are better supported by textual evidence. Then there are the truly wild questions…

The famous author responded to a teacher’s overly analytical questions about “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.

Flannery O’Connor

via Letters of Note: I am in a state of shock.

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