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Literature is a gift given to us by authors, poets, story tellers, dreamers, and realists worldwide. The author's purpose can be uniquely their own, although it is up to each individual reader to decide what riches to take away from a piece of writing. If literature depended on the author's point of view or purpose alone, then the world of literature would lack something very important, and that something is a sense of universality. For an author to have lasting power to endure through the ages, there must be some sense that a written work can be interpreted by the reader in as many ways as there are readers. Purpose is a sword that cuts both ways. It can convey the author's thoughts, feelings, and opinions about a topic or philosophy, but simultaneously work on many other levels as so many varied readers take on the challenge of understanding their work. For example, let us look at a classic writer, such as Shakespeare, and then we'll look at a poet such as e.e. cummings.
Shakespeare has written a voluminous amount of plays and sonnets. He must have had some purpose in mind when writing each and every piece. If we examine the play, Richard III, the reader can interpret a rich myriad of meanings. We'll never truly know for certain what any author's personal thoughts were as he or she created a literary work, because we are not that individual. There are, of course, the obvious conjectures, as we look at Richard III, such as political motivations given that Shakespeare wrote during Queen Elizabeth's reign. There were many reasons to vilify Richard III more than what he actually historically was, given that Elizabeth hailed from the house of Tudor. Richard III was replaced by the first king of the House of Tudor, Henry VII. Since Queen Elizabeth was a Tudor, Shakespeare had much to gain both politically and personally if seen in a good light by the royal family. Characterizing Richard III as the unyielding villain would propel him into the good graces of Her Majesty. For Shakespeare, this is as good a purpose as any to compose such a play. However, for the reader, the purpose could be quite the opposite. The reader may take away a story rife with murderous plots, treachery, and palace intrigue, knowing nothing about the historical context in which it was written.
The poet, e.e. cummings, was a poet who wrote in an avant guarde style of verse ignoring all grammatical conventions. Why? To what purpose? The death of the poet's father played a significant role in the author's life, and heavily influenced his poem, "my father moved through dooms of love." This poem is an elegy to the praises of his father, such "(as earth will downward climb.)," giving way to the purpose of immortalizing his father in a way so personal that the reader can only attempt to imagine. However, as the reader reads the same piece of poetry, he or she may insert their own ideas about their own fathers or male role models. An example would be as one reads the lines, "(...newly as from unburied which) (floats the first who his april touch) (drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates...)." These lines, while uniquely special to the poet's perception of of his father may take on an entirely new purpose for every reader who experiences the poem. The words are malleable in their purpose, as is all of literature. To state otherwise would be presumptuous and arrogant for both reader and writer.
It is definitely part of the magic and beauty of literature that we, as readers, are able to interpret a work according to our own set of ideals and experiences. The author does the very same thing as he or she creates worlds from a jumble of words, phrases, and ideas. Purpose is ever changing with each new reader who steps into the world of the author's imagination.
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