XBreaksYFocusGroup t1_jea5abi wrote

Are you familiar with Greek tragedies? They are plays...

>"...in which the protagonist, usually a person of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he or she cannot deal."

The purpose of these plays are to provide people with emotional experiences to draw from in their own lives. They often instruct on things such as how to navigate and find value in hardships or accept that one's fate may be outside of one's control. This is often intended to envoke "catharsis" or a release from strong negative or repressed emotions through empathy, excising metaphorical hypotheticals in a safe context, and other devices of story. Not a literary scholar so that may be off but the gist is right.

To provide a personal example in modern literature, I am fond of the novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. The thesis of the novel is >!trauma is not something you "overcome" or "resolve" in a traditional sense; it is either something you learn to live with...or you don't. Which is made apparent in 800+ excruciating pages of a character enduring some of the most awful acts of humanity imaginable. But there were some passages in particular about self harm that resonated with me because of how they reminded me of friends and lovers I have had with a history with self harm. It connected with me on a visceral level how, paradoxically, this destructive act could be a lamentable but necessary coping mechanism for these people in my life, just as it was for this character. I feel I had known that intellectually but had not felt it so vividly. Nothing before had made this make sense in the same way this book did for me. Indeed, it was partly because the tragedies were so exaggerated - almost cartoonish morose - that I feel this was an effective instruction.!<

To your question about what to do about this - at the risk of stating the obvious, you have two options. You either continue with these novels or else you read other stories. If you persist, I think having this recontexualization about why people read such stories and what is to be gained from them is a good start. May help to connect with other people to read along with (see r/bookclub or r/reading_buddies, perhaps) to hear their opinions and how it affects them. You could look up analysis of them as well to form a clearer picture of what the author meant to illustrate or how different parts contribute to a grander whole which you may otherwise miss. Or, you could take a break from such heavier arcs. Perhaps return to them at a later point when you have the emotional bandwidth to enjoy them. Or not. That is fine as well. When we consume art, we are satisfying an emotional diet. These tragedies afford audiences certain experiences which you may not be in need of or ready for at present. That doesn't make the stories wrong or you wrong for not wanting to partake in them. You are just reacting to different needs. In the same way someone who lives off carbohydrates might find themselves craving vegetables for the vitamins. Your reading experience is totally your own, for your own enjoyment. No right way to do it.


XBreaksYFocusGroup t1_iwskk38 wrote

I tend to have an active mind towards it because I feel it enriches the experience. But there are a lot of kings of symbolism and some are likely to only appear upon a reread (or a scouring of secondary text).

In my opinion, what tends to make for good symbolism is some or all of the following:

> 1) Agency in the symbol

> 2) Generally established cultural connotations

> 3) Repetition

> 4) Appearance at crucial moments

> 5) Changes or recontextualization with each appearance

> 6) A symbol web

The more of those boxes are checked, the more evident the symbol(s). Kind of a basic example but say a character study marks a character's emotional development with a water symbol - an element with the capacity to nurture or overwhelm. They storm off during an argument and become dehydrated as a result of their actions. They leave a summer job at a community swimming pool for a dispiriting cubicle internship devoid of human connection. They offer to help an elderly neighbor repair their faucet and they earn a new friend. Then maybe a parent or another character will have a more fiery motif with a reoccurring symbol that emphasizes destruction as a loss of control or marks the forging of bonds when wielded responsibly. Something like that (as perhaps blunt as it may be) might reveal additional layers when they appear in more ambiguous ways or hint at relationships between characters or their environment.