'school' By Peter Cowan Essay

949 words - 4 pages

There are many ways in which a piece of literature can be read and interpreted. A text is construed in many ways, depending on the readers time period, culture and previous knowledge. When we read literature, there are many culturally determined practices and conventions that we follow. These practices and conventions are constructed by social structures such as the church, law and media which in turn will support them. Interpreting the 'gaps and silences' in a text is one practice and convention that we have learnt to do from childhood. The short story School by Peter Cowan is one that incorporates reading practices and assumptions. School has many 'gaps and silences' and contradictions that are apparent in the text information. There are also a range of readings that can be constructed from School which support different views, ideas and values.The text information in Peter Cowan's short story School, has been constructed in a way that we as the reader can interpret it in countless more ways than what it may mean on a surface level. Cowan limits the information of the text to allow the reader to form their own meaning. The text does not provide complete information about the boy in the story; it merely implies that he is feeling alienated and depressed. There is no text information that unambiguously explains that the boy is feeling alienated and excluded. In the last paragraph, the boy's difficulty is described by, 'He looked at the symbols on the paper and they blurred and made no pattern.' In this sentence, we assume that he does not understand the work, but this is only inferred. This text can be analysed as being limited in text information; to interpret it, the reader has to make assumptions of the omitted information.Text information is absorbed and understood according to cultural reading practices and reader assumptions. In the short story School by Peter Cowan, there are many ideas that are not literally written; it is left to the reader to assume what the writer has omitted. In the last paragraph, Cowan writes: 'He could feel the tears and he was afraid to move lest the others see.' We assume that the class is sterile and unfriendly, though this is not stated in the text. Without assuming, we would not make sense of the text. Readers assume different meanings because of their different cultures, experiences or education. The way we interpret texts is called reading practices. One reading practice is interpreting the gaps and silences in a text.The short story School contains many gaps and silences; they are the incomplete information in the text. The gaps and silences in a text may be interpreted in many ways depending on our attitudes values...

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