Probably the worst thing about being an English Major (besides being an English Major) is just reading all the garbage you have to read and then [dumpster] diving into like you actually care what’s inside. Centuries ago, someone decided to look at a book and say: “this is pretty cool; I want to take a big huge, steaming dump on it” and they did. That dump is called literary analysis and it has been tumbling gracelessly across the curricula of English classes ever since. Literary analysis is the bane of all writing. They dissect literature like frogs in high school instead of enjoying them on the whole like the author (and the frog) intended.
Notice how the word “analyze” is dangerously close to the word “anal.” That’s done on purpose. Because when you analyze literature, you are literally defiling it. You’re using literature in a way that it doesn’t want to be used (usually. Some literature is into that; Ayn Rand likes it up the butt) and your tearing it open and sticking your massive academic schlong where it has no business schlonging. There are whole institutions dedicated to finding new ways to do butt stuff to various works of literature. I’m in a class right now that, instead of analyzing texts, analyzes the way texts have been analyzed in a giant circlejerk of literary “prowess” (interrobang is no longer just punctuation). Something, something, dicks.
But here’s the trick. No matter how many people dig through the century-old refuse we call literature, everyone will find something different. There’s only two people that won’t: lazy people who just point to things other people found and you, after reading this. The fact that everyone finds something different works in your favour. This means that you can just make stuff up (as demonstrated by the always pertinent xkcd). English is one of the few subjects where you can make shit up (it’s pretty much encouraged) and, and as long as you can make it sound smart, you’re good to go. This is obviously not applicable in University (where you have to vigorously stroke the ego of your professor while cupping their theories and analyses, and lick their- I’m just gonna stop this analogy right here) but in high school and grad school, this is your insulin.
Back in high school (when I had bad grades in English class) I had a lot of fun with this. In a mythology class, we watched the 2001 version of Snow White. We were told to look for symbols in the movie. Most people said things like “blood on a rose” represents loss of innocent because of vagina reasons, or the Queen dresses in black because she’s evil, simple stuff. But not me. I watched the movie and noticed that all the dwarves were wearing suspenders. This makes sense: suspenders are adorable. The suspender, more likely than not, were just some ambiguous aesthetic choice. The costume designers probably out little to no thought into it (besides finding tiny suspenders). But as the up and coming literary analyst I was, I took those suspenders an blew them way out of their tiny proportions. I began to question the suspenders. Why don’t they have belts? The dwarves obviously make their own clothes, why not make pants that fit? Why are the suspenders the same colour as their clothes? Where did they find the materials to make these? Is there some merchant in the village that sells rainbow elastics to little people? If the village is so accommodating of little people, why bother living in the woods at all? Suddenly, they started to make sense. Suspenders weren’t just for holding up pants, no. These suspenders were for holding up naivety, they were for holding up a nostalgic embrace of a past that never was. Suspenders didn’t have the negative connotations that belts have: suspenders don’t whip little children when they misbehave. I began to realize that suspenders are a trope throughout media. Look at the movie Koi… Mil Gaya. Hrithik’s character is described as having the “mind of a child.” He also displays the innocence of a child, playing with children on train tracks and singing around open fields (as you do). And guess what, he’s wearing suspenders. Yup, he even dances with them, doing the little thumb thing where he stretches them out. Halfway through the movie, Hrithik gets super powers. Suddenly, he’s a muscular genius that flies and gets whole sorts of poon. And here’s the kicker: the suspenders disappeared. He didn’t wear suspenders as a badass, only as a child. This obviously meant something.
No one else seemed to be questioning these suspenders (not even Steven Yi) so I knew I was on to something that no one else in any English class would ever discover. So, I presented my idea of suspenders as a symbol and [the teacher] bought it.
The point of the matter is that literary analysis doesn’t have to be about putting things in the butt, it could also be pulling stuff out. You could take anything from a text to the whimsical extreme and it’ll work.
But that’s easy for me to say. I have severe social anxiety (my psychologist says so, so it must be true) so I end up over analyzing everything. It’s automatic for me, but that might not be the case for you. The same principles apply, however. When it comes to literary analysis, just take any idea and run with it. In university, it’s probably best to get that initial idea from your professor (what with the whole “agree with me or fail the class” mentality). Just remember: nothing is stupid, nothing is wrong; if something makes sense to you, then it’s the correct answer.