English Class versus Romance: How Communication Fails

November is National Novel Writing Month and I am thinking about participating. Writing fiction was not my goal, causing me to give the idea of participating more thought. To me, writing 50,000 words should be the goal, not the type of writing. I’m giving it some thought. I can’t remember the last time I read a fiction book (not electronic). Thinking about the last time I read one caused me to fondly (maybe not fondly) remember English class in school. Do you remember reading books and having to analyze the books because they were filled with metaphors?

met⋅a⋅phor: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”Dictionary.com

Do you remember having to analyze what the author really meant in their book? I remember wondering why the author did not directly say what he or she meant. It would make life much easier and I do not agree with the concept that metaphors and symbolism make a book better. I did not mind writing in English class but I did not like reading something and having to guess what the author meant.

Of course, this behavior did not stop in school. It continued in college with Critical Thinking classes.

Critical thinking is assumed to be the purposeful and reflective judgment about what to believe or what to do in response to observations, experience, verbal or written expressions, or arguments. Wikipeda

Ironically, I did well in my Critical Thinking classes because, to me, it was more common sense. Give me a set of problems and I can determine what the root problem is and how to fix it. My classmates did not do as well as I did. In college, we had a lot of team interaction and I carried my team in Critical Thinking classes. The problem they normally bumped into was seeing immediate surface problems without determining the root issue, which means the problem is unresolved. Example situation: video games where a boss will spawn adds (other monsters to kill). I realized killing the boss would remove the monsters the boss created/summoned. Some of my teammates would get lost in killing the spawns. Without killing the boss, the spawns would keep attacking, endlessly.

And that is how NanoWrimo caused me to see The Great Divide in relationships.

The Problem

Guy meets girl. Guy likes girl. Guy does not know if girl likes guy. Guy asks, “So…are you dating anyone”? Do you see the metaphor? When the guy asked the girl if she was dating anyone he was really wondering if she would date him. If the girl is interested in the guy, unless she realizes what he really meant, she could unintentionally detour the interaction down the wrong path with her response. Especially since the only two answers the guy wants to hear is that she is not dating anyone and she’d like to date him. Of course, she may not say she’s interested in dating him because her critical thinking skills are not sharp, making her unsure as to the root reason of him asking the question.

And yes, we cannot forget the guy that receives the golden answer: “No, I’m not seeing anyone. Would you like to go out sometimes?” and has the knee-jerk reaction of, “Oh, I wasn’t interested in dating. I was just curious”, causing him to regret that response endlessly for the near future.

Unfortunately, the metaphor and symbolism use can escalate with time. For some people, the more vulnerable some people become, the more they hide behind words. Ever had the argument that started because of X but was really about Y, something you did three weeks ago? Recovering from cheating is another example. Often the cheater is accused of cheating when he or she is innocent of the crime. Worse, the person will go into over-drive trying to make up for the pain they caused, clouding the real drive for their actions: guilt vs. wanting to be with the person. A person attempting to forgive the cheating would have be objective (and awesome) along with using accurate critical thinking skills to see guilt as the root behavior. Even if the person realized the root behavior, it is a big step to accept it.

The Solution

Keep metaphors and symbolism in literature where they belong. When it comes to interacting with people, say what you mean, mean what you say or don’t say it.

Honestly, it is that simple. Unfortunately, simple does not always mean easy.