Literature Is the Question Minus the Answer

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Critic Roland Barthes has said, “Literature is the question minus the answer.” Choose a novel or play and, or considering Barthes’ observation, write an essay in which you analyze a central question the work raises and the extent to which it offers any answers. Explain how the author’s treatment of this question affects your understanding of the work as a whole.

Literature, as any other kind of art, is abstract and gives the readers the possibility of applying different meanings and therefore learning new morals. The critic Roland Barthes has wisely said that “Literature is the question minus the answer.” The tragedy Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a perfect example of how a central question is left unanswered thus allowing for various interpretations.

One of the major themes in Hamlet is the reason behind his delay for revenge. Throughout the play, the prince of Denmark is presented with many opportunities to kill his father's murderer Claudius but there was always something holding him back. There are different theories of why Hamlet may find it difficult to execute the ghost’s request. It could be said that Hamlet fears the consequence of killing a king, which at that time was considered a mortal sin, or he simply didn't want to hurt his mother Gertrude by killing her new lover, or as some may think, he is too sensitive a soul to be able to commit an act of violence. By carefully reviewing the play, the readers may find yet another, more believable explanation such as that Hamlet is simply over thinking the situation and his indecision is causing him to miss all these opportunities for revenge. In Act III Scene I he himself gives voice to this theory by saying: “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” His intelligence may truly be the cause of his inability to act and defend his family’s honor. The first clue of this is Hamlet’s doubt of the true intensions of the ghost. In order to assure himself that the ghost’s story is true, the prince plots...
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