Harold Pinter tells it like it is (in a letter)

Discoveries like this are the reason I read the New Yorker’s Book Bench: Harold Pinter, in 1966, wrote a letter to a student who wrote to him inquiring about several possible hidden meanings within Pinter’s play The Caretaker. Pinter responds by basically saying, “Everything is the way it is because that’s the way it is”, and does so in the most straightforward (and sarcastic) manner possible. He, evidently, was not one to attach much meaning to things in his writing. Or at least not in this particular play.

I admire the way he addresses the questions in such a straight way, allowing no room for misinterpretation. Sometimes, stuff is just stuff. The letter reminds me keenly of high school and how frustrating it was (particularly with poetry, but certainly with plays) to sit and read something over and over in an awkward attempt to discover the meaning behind this, or the symbolism of that. Of course, one would inevitably hypothesize something off-base from time to time and be told that that particular interpretation was wrong. That interpretations could be “wrong” has always been a sticking point for me; it still is, and probably always will be.

The thing about a person’s interpretation of an event, an object, or otherwise is that it’s just that — an interpretation. And of course, it’s subject to that person’s perspective. I’m not saying that every interpretation of something is right as that’s not the point of studying literature. I’m saying that an interpretation that misses the mark is perhaps not well enough informed or coming from an untrained eye. This concept easily translates into life as, if you consider the way a person perceives an event or an object in life, it may not be exactly what was intended by that event or object in the first place. Pinter certainly didn’t intend particular meaning to things in his piece, but there could be any number of people who would find meaning by placing it there, themselves. I think, from time to time, that’s the point of a piece — to prompt that sort of exploration. My grade six teacher (a man to whom I owe many things, including one of the best years of my school life) always said that literature is a representation of life, and left it at that. Certain things within a piece can be meant to evoke things, but they don’t always have to mean something, as Pinter so bluntly expresses in his letter.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to read/watch something that actually is that straightforward (before plunging back into something torturously loaded with meaning, of course).


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