Interpreting literature has been a source of joy in my life.
The process goes deeper than that word conveys though. Literature in this process encompasses music, art and everything expressed through any medium attempting to bring about beauty or convey feelings otherwise impossible to illustrate.
The bodies of work I find myself constantly returning to for guidance and discovery offer me something new on every visit.
Hemingway is a consistent center for these regular reviews of myself and the world around me and “Hills Like White Elephants” is something I will be reading the rest of my life.
Through my love of the work I recommended it to a very close friend of mine and the way she interpreted it changed the way I view many things.
The introduction to this famous short story is stark and laid bare – anyone who’s familiar with Ernest is well acquainted with his spartan prose and these first lines encapsulate the story.
Over coffee we talked about Hills and how it made us feel. I learned that she never read past the opening lines, because those were all she needed to understand.
I was in several English and film interpretation courses at the time, one being focused on the advantages and disadvantages of bringing prior knowledge to a text or a film before experiencing it.
Throughout the semester solid arguments were brought forth from both sides of reasoning and it’s something I doubt has a single answer.
What I loved about my friend’s interpretation of the work was what was left out of it and spoke to how profound a writer Hemingway was. What could be described as a background for the story to follow through a careless first glance was actually the complete story.
The background formed the heart of the work, it began and ended in those few lines. Nothing else was needed, or could be said. The conclusion was obvious from the first sentence and that conversation with my friend over coffee greatly influenced my perspective when approaching not only books, but also art and many other things in life.
There’s a steeple that can be seen nearly everywhere on our property near Clitherall and it’s been a beautiful constant in the background of all my time spent there. As I continue in life, I can feel and understand it’s the foreground in my life and all that’s needed for my story.
Keep reading – until next time.