When reading the work of authors who have died, do you think we can ever be certain about which themes and symbolism they meant to put into their work? How much of theme and symbolism is in the eye of the beholder?
Symbolism is very much in the eye of the beholder, or reader as the case may be. When reading the work of authors who are no longer living, it is hard to know for sure what symbolism the creating author put into the work. Just like in art. When you are looking at a painting, you can interpret the symbolism into what you believe it means. However, it can never be known for sure what the symbolism means unless the artist tells you.
Take the ever famous, Mona Lisa. Experts have argued for years over what she is smiling about, but the only one who really knows is Leonardo da Vinci. Since he is no longer here with us, we can only guess what was in his mind when he painted the famous smile.
When an author creates symbolism in his or her writing, the only way to really know what it means is for the writer to tell the reader. However, vague symbolism serves a point. It serves the point of allowing the reader to become one with the plot, by having the reader decide what the symbolism means to them.
The same theory holds true for themes in writing. A good writer will lead the reader in the general direction they want the story to go, while allowing the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks. Always making sure the blanks are not too vague. A writer must control his or her story, and provide a flight of fancy to their reader. It is a very delicate balance and takes much practice to master. I hope to master the knack and provide my potential readers with a wealth of meaning and enjoyment in my writing.