The same scene according to the author, the character, the reader, are never the same. Can never be the same, I should say, because who can know the processes of one’s mind? There are things the character never tells the author, and there are things the author never tells the reader, and neither of these will ever know what the reader will assume.

I suppose I think this way because when I was in high school, most of my English teachers taught New Criticism (does IB sanction this? That would be interesting to find out); that is, an examination of the text alone, without considering the goals or history of the author. Though at Berkeley, what was taught was Historical-Biographical Criticism, which sees the text as a product of the author’s life and times; but by that time I was steeped in the workings of New Criticism. This showed in my essays, I think; frequently I was asked, But what of the author’s background? How has that played a role in what you are trying to prove? To which I would answer (in my head of course), what does it matter? (Of course, after four years at Berkeley, I see that it does matter, in the way that you are a product of your upbringing, so the character is birthed and developed from the author, his parent.)

Though I do think, once penned, published, sent out, mass produced, read, the text (like us) stands on its own. The author no longer has control over what his characters will say to his readers. What secrets the readers will read between the lines. He cannot go back and change it, because this text is already alive, floating around in existence. Even if all the copies were burnt, some remnant would exist in a reader’s mind (and in this day and age, the internet too perhaps).

It fascinates me: what happens to a person when they read? Are they transported into the character’s world? Do they take on the character’s form? Or do they stand off to the side, a bystander, if you will?

And what of the author? What does he see when he puts to words the scenarios in his head? Is he satisfied with what he’s written?

And most importantly, the character. Trapped in the confines of a finite number of pages, fate spelled out or left ambiguous; his life is forever in a state of limbo.

In an alternate plane or dimension, I imagine them (all the characters ever imagined or written) all convening without ever seeing a glimpse of each other. Stuck, blinded in being the star of their own fantasy lives. It’s not their fault; it’s simply the nature of being a fancy of someone real. 

If there was ever so true a thesis, it is this: there is no such thing as a reliable narrator.

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