Stuff You've Completely Misinterpreted

The Unlikeable Protagonists thread reminded me that when I read The Stranger, I thought it did a great job of showing why it’s important to follow morals by creating a character who doesn’t care about anything and making him immensely unlikable.

Then I talked to a friend of mine about it and he told me otherwise. Oops.

(It made me decide that I didn’t like the book, too.)

This is just so you’ll have at least one reply to your thread. I noticed a lot of views and no responses. I know how that feels!

Wait a second. What did your friend tell you that made you decide you were wrong and didn’t like the book? And why do you suppose your friend’s interpretation was more valid than your own?

If you would elaborate a bit on what exactly you found so unlikeable about Meursault’s character, why you didn’t enjoy the book and what your friend had to say about it, we may be able to get a pretty good discussion going. I’m afraid that, with your vague statements, not many people are going to respond to your post. :frowning:

I don’t think discussion is what the OP is going for. Rather, I believe Talon is looking for examples of movies and books where you (the viewer) were under the impression that the such and such a character was motivated for reason “A”, when in fact they were motivated for reason “B”.

Then again, I might just be misinterpreting. Unfortunately, I can not think of any examples right now. Sorry.

Nevertheless, it provides a perfect example of an issue crucial to the thread, which is that there is no one correct interpretation to a book or movie, so there’s no way, really, to completely misinterpret something, except in those cases where people are in an English class trying to come up with an interpretation and say all kinds of nonsense because either they didn’t read it or don’t know what else to sat about it. Any HONEST interpretation is a valid interpretation.

Aah. You’re right. Talk about a misinterpretation. I totally missed what the OP was looking for. :smack:

In high school, I thought that Winston Smith was killed by a shot to the head at the end of 1984 & as he was dying, realized he loved BB.

It could still be argued that way, but it works so much better seeing the bullet entering his head as the final collapse of his self as he surrendered to BB.

I think I might have been party to a massive misinterpretation of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” Mrs. Evil Captor and I saw it in a suburban theater here in the Deep South. Frequently, we were the only ones laughing. So frequently that we were wondering as we left the theater if our fellow patrons realized they’d been watching a comedy.

I don’t know, sometimes the author meant for a character or symbol to represent one thing, and the reader takes it to represent something else. That’s not exactly “wrong”, I suppose, but it does mean they misunderstood what the author was trying to say.

Back in high school, I had to write a poem for English class. Obnoxious smart-aleck that I was, I wrote a poem that was all about how I hated writing poetry and thought the whole thing was stupid.

My classmates thought it was about giving birth. :eek:

(Although I guess they at least got the fact that it was about creating something, and that the process was painful. :smiley: )

Although I was more looking for examples from others, I’d be happy to clarify.

Okay, in my case what I thought the author had been trying to say was what the author apparently said the opposite of.

See, Mersault’s lack of caring about anything can be seen in his relationship to his girlfriend. She wants him to love her, but he doesn’t really care. He’s willing to say he loves her just to appease her. Of course, doing that just hurts her more.

He winds up killing a guy because the sun was in his eyes. Then in the end, at the trial it shows just how disconnected he is because the people at the trial don’t understand him and sentence him to death.

See, I thought the point of the book was that Mersault’s attitude was bad, but a friend of mine who is a big fan of existentialist literature tells me that the author actually intended to show Mersault’s attitude as good.

Why do you take his word for it? IMO, both are rather facile readings, but yours is no less valid than his.

Incidentally, Camus was not an existentialist. He was an absurdist. The best insight into his philosophy is The Myth of Sysiphus, which I’ve probably misspelled.

As I understand existentialism (and I don’t claim to understand it very well,) everything hinges on the actions and attitude of the individual. In other words, existentialism means whatever you think it means.

I don’t see it as a useful philosophy.

If you mean you take it that the book ends with Winston being shot then I think you misinterpret it (IMHO :)). He wishs for it so he could die perfect but it doesn’t happen yet.

And more importantly I don’t think it’s about his final surrender to BB…that had already happened. What I see happening is he is as he’s listening to the war reports on the telescreen, he begins to share in Oceania’s glorious victories…realizes he is not just BB’s victem, but part of the boot, grinding other human faces into the mud. This is the only happiness possible in this society, and he takes it. And that’s when his humanity truely dies. I fould it even more chilling when I read it that way.

A comedy about OUR LORD AND SAVIOR :mad: !


He’s not the savior, he’s a very naughty boy!

Eh, he’s a smart guy and is more familiar with literature than I am.
They may be equally valid, but the author couldn’t have intended both.

I figured he may be wrong, but I might as well take his word for it.

But I just looked it up on Wikipedia and they gave a completely different interpretation. That one sounds more likely.
Anyway, it was a couple of years ago that I read it. I’ve gotten better since than with philosophical interpretation.

Can’t he be both? I thought existentialism was a philosophy while absurdism was a method of making a point.
Wasn’t Samuel Beckett an existentialist and an absurdist?

That’s my understanding too, and I also don’t think much of it as a philosophy, but it does make for some great literature.

The friend who disagreed with my interpretation of The Stranger pointed me to Waiting for Godot, and I think I did a better job of figuring that out. Basically, Vladmir and Estragon create their existence out of waiting for Godot, even though it’s pointless.

I think that depends on whether you think of it as existentialism or Existentialism. Sarte and Co. said lots of silly things and I don’t know if you’d want to take up Existentialism as your philosophy of choice, but I look at it this way; all philosophies of life are basically either existential or essential. Meaning either you posit an a priori purpose and meaning to life (deriving from god or whathaveyou) or you see meaning as being created BY existence. I often wish for the former, but I suspect the latter, so I’ve found the philosophy to be very useful. And I agree it does make for great literature.