Wednesday, 24 March 2010


The discussions in class have made me think of all the different possibilities that exist when it comes to understanding meaning. The meaning usually associated with a specific word can be altered by using the word in a different context or changing it's function to create a new nuance of meaning. I also thought of the possibilities of meaning as in the different ways an author intended a text to be understood. Can these 'possibilities of meaning' be limited by the author's intention?

In the song 'Forgive Me' by Missy Higgins I was particularly struck by the two middle verses:

Oh my god how you make it hard
Not to pick the apple
Pick the Apple
And Lord I long to give it back

And I was on shaky land
Lost and unsure I opened my hand
And she held it like sinking sand.

What I find most effective is how the apple as a metaphor for temptation effortlessly materialises into the girl's hand between the two verses. Although Missy clearly states that it is a character piece about a man who has been unfaithful to his wife I can't help but imagine the narrator of these verses in particular to be a woman. Perhaps it is this Eve reference, or maybe it is the female vocals, or maybe it's my own projection, but in my mind the hands holding each other in this last image are both definitely female. My question is, is my interpretation wrong or less valid because it is not supported by the writer or the song lyrics? Are the possibilities limited by the words in the text or the author's intentions or do they exist endlessly in the reader's mind too?

Let's take this in another direction. What happens if an interpretation is based on a misunderstanding? Does this create a myriad of new possibilities?

For me the most crucial moment in the film The Lives of Others is when the actress Christa-Maria walks out onto the road infront of a truck. I understood this as an accidental death that had nothing to do with the rest of the plot or the other characters. I found this sense of wastage unbearable. I was instantly overcome by the feelings of pointlessness and loss that I had experienced the year before when two of my friends were killed in a car crash. Afterwards a friend explained that Christa-Maria had seen the on-coming truck and had walked out in front of it on purpose as she couldn't live with herself after betraying her lover to the secret police. My point is that the film had an even more significant and personal meaning to me because of a misunderstanding. At school our interpretation of anything always had to be backed up with evidence but I think there is a difference between the world of factual analysis and the world of possibilities. The former searches only for difinitve answers whereas the latter is fluid. I don't think it can be limited by authorial intent or textual content as meaning is relative and interpretation personal.

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