The Nature of Accessibility
The abstract concept of accessibility in literature does not have one sole definition and can vary on a number of different factors. It is how difficult a reader finds the literature that he/she is reading. It is what the reader expects to get out of the reading prior to reading it, and what he/she actually interprets and understands after reading it. Accessibility can vary from reader to reader. A college English professor and a middle school student are more than likely not going to find the same poems and plays accessible. Many other factors, not just education, can decide the nature of accessibility in literature for readers. Among these can be the authors past, society’s stereotypes, the time at which the work was written, etc. Accessibility can be compared in a way to the human body. With the right exercise, rest, and nutrition it will run perfectly. When sleep is reduced, for example, the body will begin to slow down and run less efficiently. It is possible to run on less than the recommended eight hours, but it proves to be more difficult. In the same way, accessibility has all these different factors, depending on the type of literature. If, for example, the reader can understand the meaning and relevance of the time period in the work of literature, he/she has an advantage in understanding this work. In the same way, if the reader does not fully understand the writer’s style, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the work is completely inaccessible, but it proves to be less accessible and therefore more difficult to apprehend. Some factors, among others, that affect the nature of accessibility in literature are character development, time period and setting, and structure and style. “The Griesly Wife” (“the poem”) by John Manifold is a poem that is much more accessible than Edward Albee’s famous play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (“the play”). Characters make any story come alive, whether it is a poem, play, movie, etc. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the characters really astonish the reader due primarily to their peculiar actions and ways of being. From the very first conversation in the play, the reader’s accessibility is already being challenged. Before reading on with Act 1, the reader is confused and does not understand the foolish actions being depicted by this middle-aged married couple. Martha and Nick are this bitter old couple, arguing over trivial topics, like the name of a movie. This makes the play less accessible because most readers relate better to the “happily ever after” couple who never argues. The average marriage doesn’t consist of this quintessential depiction of a perfect life, but most readers are going to want to read something cheerful, as an escape from the reality of things. That is why there are more stories with “happily ever after” endings than sad endings, because they appeal to a larger crowd. From a very early age, student’s minds are constantly filled of stories with happy endings. It is only natural for the mind to seek this happiness in literature over a melancholy, bitter piece. As the play goes on, it is learned that the main characters are all in dysfunctional marriages, for one reason or another. Another fact is that the characters are intoxicated for much of the play. Both of these factors may contribute to their uncharacteristic, sometimes childish behavior. An example of the combination of these factors in effect is the evident fact that Martha is trying to approach Nick sexually throughout the entire play. Honey, absentminded and in her own world, does not try to correct Martha or defend her position as Nick’s wife. The alcohol automatically triggers a sense of carelessness, one possible explanation for Honey’s actions, or lack thereof. The fact that both marriages are having issues is another possible explanation for Honey’s indifferent response to Martha. These uncanny actions also make the play less accessible because the reader has...
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