is it wrong to say the opposite of what someone is looking for you to say?melmoth the wanderer, charles maturin. i've been asked to come up with possible reasons as to why maturin wrote it the way...

is it wrong to say the opposite of what someone is looking for you to say?

melmoth the wanderer, charles maturin. i've been asked to come up with possible reasons as to why maturin wrote it the way he did. it's incredibly frustrating because i just want to say what i think and believe! any advice would be appreciated

Asked on by reeeeeegan

1 Answer | Add Yours

lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is an important question, and I, for one, am glad you have posed it.  This is an ethical question, an intellectual question, and a practical one, too. 

When you produce what you are expected to produce in response to a prompt or exam question, and this is not your opinion, are you being dishonest with yourself?  Are you being dishonest with your professor?  Is this kind of honesty required in student work, or should you simply regurgitate what is expected, so you can get a good grade? These are questions you will have to answer for yourself, but I have a few ideas that might be of use.

For most professors, the expectation is that you will make an assertion about a work and then support that assertion with examples and details from that work.  I am not sure what it is about your situation that makes you think you must produce a particular answer or interpretation, but most professors are overjoyed when students make assertions and support them. 

Having said that, I must also add that there are reasonable and unreasonable interpretations of literary works.  For example, if I were to argue that The Great Gatsby is really about organized crime in America, I would be laughed out of class.  There are references to gangster activity throughout the book, but no one could reasonably interpret those references to argue that the point of the book is to explore the world of gangsters. 

If you have a reasonable interpretation that you can support, either through the book itself or through research external to the book, about the author, for example, or about the period in which the book was written, then I would encourage you to offer that interpretation. 

One way to finesse the whole problem would be to offer what is expected and your own theory, too.  This might require some diplomacy on your part, some statements indicating that your professor's ideas have some validity.  But once you have offered what is expected, there is nothing wrong with offering an alternative theory, as long as you can support it. 

Good luck to you! 

We’ve answered 318,950 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question