‘No two persons ever read the same book’ ~ Edmund Wilson
As humans, how well do we really communicate? Is what you say, the same thing that I hear? Does what I write have the same meaning for the one who reads it and do two readers of one work actually find the same meaning in identical words and passages? This was brought home to me by a reader who told me that she thought the character, Elva, in my book, Millstones, was a wicked old woman.
I had thought that Elva was a woman who had done the best she could to make her way in the world while burdened with a very Victorian upbringing. Did my reader think she was bad because she adopted a man’s name when she wrote her murder mysteries? Was she bad because she pretended not to see the ghost? I thought that I had created Elva out of my imagination. What a surprise to learn that there are as many Elva’s as there are readers and that none of them is exactly the same as my Elva.
In other words, the book I wrote isn’t the book that anyone else will read. Just like Elva, we see and hear only what we are predisposed and culturally educated to see and hear. Every reader reads his or her own story.
Have you had any similar experiences?