A recent Fiction Writing session dealt with the idea of meaning in story, that is literary meaning in the context of craft discussion. The subject was “Deportation at Breakfast,” a story by Larry Fondation. I don’t think I discourage discussions of meaning in story but I do make a distinction between the analysis of craft, especially in a course’s early stages, and literary analysis.
The “literary meaning” of a story is a big time issue but the “meaning” of “meaning” changes with context. Is Fondation’s story about the triumph of the individual; is it about the inevitability of change; is it about the roles we assume; is it about exile (deportation); is it about being the good guy; is it about sacrifice? Does the story situate itself in a modernist tradition of objectivism? What is the model of analysis? I know that the story works within its “frame of time” until it ends and normalcy resumes. A man is left at the counter, wondering about tomorrow.
Is that enough? I’m going to let the students fight this one out.
The question for me will be: what makes the story work and how does figuring an answer free up the fingertips as we walk our characters onto that tentative white and move them into the window frame.