Position Paper: Reader-response
I read a book the other day. It was a wonderful book called The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I really enjoyed it; it gives the background information on the creation of Middle Earth. In it, Tolkien tells us of Illúvatar, Eä, the Valar and the birth of Elves, Dwarves and Men. But, you know, I don't think it has anything at all to do with Elves, Dwarves, Men and some god named Illúvatar. I think Tolkien really wanted to write a Biblical allegory and a critique on ridiculous human nature really is. Illúvatar is a substitution for God, the Valar substitute the Angels and the three god made races are representative of human races. I think he didn't use more races because that would be too obvious and he wanted to be more subtle.
As I see it, this is what reader-response theory is about. It is about finding meaning in a text based on the reader's opinions, regardless of what the author may have wanted their novel to mean. By deciding that Tolkien's novel, The Silmarillion, is a critique on the Bible and human nature completely goes against what Tolkien himself thought. He says in a letter to Milton Waldman, But an equally basic passion of mine ab initio was for myth (not allegory!) and for fairy-story
I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own
not of the quality that I sought, and found in legends of other lands
Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized
For one thing its faerie' is too lavish
For another and more important thing: it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion (Tolkien xi-xii). Now this letter is included in a book titled, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, on pages 143-161. More importantly, it is in the preface to The Silmarillion, pages xi-xxiv. In short, my taking the view that this novel is a Biblical allegory completely undermines what the...
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