Literal Interpretation in Literature

Literal Interpretation in Literature
Literature is meant to provide a perspective on life. Phrases or quotes
found in works of literature may be used to help express one’s own thoughts, to
describe a particular situation, or even to apply the circumstances in another
piece of literature. Readers often utilize literary quotes for this purpose,
yet not every reader will interpret a given quote the same way. One example of
a phrase which can have many different meanings is the biblical quote “The sins
of the father visit upon the children.”
A literal interpretation of the above quote would mean the wrongdoings of
the father somehow affects the children. If the “bad habits” of one generation
aren’t corrected, they will be passed on to the generations that follow. That
can result in generations of drug abusers, spouse abusers, or just rude people.

One example of this interpretation might be if a father is a drug abuser, the
children will learn from him, and use drugs also. Another example is if the
father is abusive, the children will think that is how problems are solved.

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They, in turn, will be abusive to their families, and will start a vicious cycle
for generations to come. These examples definitely show how this biblical quote
may be interpreted literally.

“The sins of the father visit upon the children” has a deeper meaning than
that described above. For example, “father” could be changed to “parent,” and
these “parents” could mean “generations” that precede the children. A situation
that would represent that would be war or pollution. A second example which
illustrates how this quote may be interpreted on a more global level is
preceding generations could affect the children by means of racial
discrimination that has been passed down from long ago. This may have started
with slavery and segregation. Then, as generations follow, racial
discrimination is passed. All of these situations prove that one quote may have
many different meanings.

A third way to interpret this biblical quote is to change the word “sins”
to a more general or positive term such as “behaviors”, “expectations”,
“experiences”, or even “good deeds”. By making such a substitution, the quote
takes on a new meaning. This makes the biblical quote good or bad depending on
the “behaviors”. For example, the father may behave in a polite way, which
would teach the children behaviors that make many friends, get job offers, and
basically get the most out of life. On the other hand, the fathers behaviors
could be rude, and the children would learn to be mean, which would cause them
to lose their jobs and friends. Another situation which illustrates this new
idea is if the father has experienced many important ways to tackle every day
conflicts, he can teach the children easier ways to work out problems, to do
school work, and teach the right ways to talk to people and get what you want,
such as talking your way into a job offer, or a higher job rank.

While changing the focus of the original quote does add new meaning, the
idea that the deeds of one generation affect those who follow, is still apparent.

The quote “the sins of the father visit upon the children”, certainly
applies to the circumstances of the Greek drama Antigone. In this drama, the
core conflict is a result of a curse on Oedipus when he kills his father. This
conflict demonstrates man vs. the laws of the sate. This is the conflict that
hurts following generations. Antigone wants to marry her brother, but where she
lives it is against Creon’s laws. Other problems which exist in Antigone are
also caused by actions of a father or “father figure”. One such situation is
when Creon wants to punish Antigone to death even though his son, Haimon, is to
marry her. It is easy to see how this biblical quote pertains, in particular,
to the circumstances in the Greek drama Antigone. The above examples also show
that one can use quotes from one piece of literature to help understand and
clarify the actions and events in another.

Literature does imitate real life, and phrases found in literary works can
successfully describe life experiences. The phrase “The sins of the father
visit upon the children” can be interpreted in many different ways depending on
how you look at different words, or how you apply them to real life or
literature. You can take word “father” literally, or take it as a word that
means parent. “Father” can even mean generations of families. It just depends
on the context of the situation.