Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is the whole worth more than the sum of its parts?

I found the quote we were trying to think of in class today.  Gandalf comes to Orthanc, and Saruman says that he is Saruman of Many Colours instead of White because White can be broken.  Gandalf replies "In which case it is no longer white...And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom," (Fellowship p. 252).  What do you all think of this statement?  Does deconstructing a thing (a piece of literature for instance) ruin it?  I feel like that is what we do all the time when we write essays.  We pick out individual pieces of evidence to support our argument.  Perhaps Tolkien only meant that we can focus too intently and zoom in too far, making a comprehensive view impossible.  How can we then balance the two?


Lorin said...

I think that's a really interesting idea - that perhaps Tolkien would see deconstructing literature as sort of ruining it. I think it depends on HOW you go about doing that, though. Some books have been ruined for me because of having to intensely analyze them, and with others, I've gotten more appreciation for them because of that (as has been the case in these Tolkien's classes :)). I think it's important to try to keep a comprehensive, sweeping view of a piece of literature, as you suggest. Otherwise, in my opinion, literature simply becomes words to dissect rather than being stories to appreciate and fall in love with.

Austin M. said...

This is an excellent point, Ashley. As an English major, there are definitely times when I feel people (myself included) get carried away with analysis of literature. Often, I feel this way when dissecting works and stories that are dear to my heart. It is always a little painful to strip away the beauty of a tale in order to expose the bones of which it is comprised. However, that is the nature of the beast.

Michael Lott said...

While the whole of something may be appreciated as such, sometimes it must be broken up to both understand it and see its beauty. Take a geode for instance. On the outside it is a standard round rock like most any other, however, once broken open you see that it is covered in crystals on the inside. Also isn't there a beauty or wonder in some "broken" things such as sub atomic particles or the rings of a tree?
So, while things may be destroyed in a way by breaking them up, it is not necessarily removing all that is good or pleasing from them.