Just some fast thoughts I typed out prompted by my Composition assignments of the past couple weeks. I was imitating Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce and was asked which I preferred, and also whether or not I feel language can successfully convey reality. Nothing formal, so this is what I came up with Enjoy!
Can language ever do reality justice? Is it better to be Hemingway, the clear, the concise, or Joyce, the flowery, the metaphorical? I think language shapes reality; what we do and say, think and feel, all work together to make up reality, and language is how we retell reality. Can language always convey reality, capture it, reproduce it?
No, of course not. Most of the time language fails miserable to do what we ask of it. Most of the time language is nothing but words, words, words, and they fall into place all wrong so that when we mean to say something meaningful, it comes out being funny, or vice versa.
If I say that today I went shopping at Wal-Mart and bought seven things for under $35, does that convey reality? Yes, but it doesn’t convey anything but some of the facts.
Reality is multifaceted, and the thing that makes language so magical, yet so maddeningly limited, is that it is not as multifaceted as life is. It takes us more time to describe a flower than it did for us to see the flower, smell the flower, touch the flower, smile at the flower, pick the flower, and put the flower in a vase.
Language is limited, but that is where human beings come in. We all choose what is most important to us and use the language we have to express that importance.
One person might simply say ‘the flower was a lily’, and another might have no idea what kind of flower it is and slowly and accurately describe a lily, and so well that anyone who has seen a lily before thinks, “Oh, it’s a lily!”
So, back to that one question: Whose style captures ‘reality’, better: Hemingway’s or Joyce’s? Personally, I think the best way to capture reality is to use a mixture of both the stark fact of Hemingway and the romantic depth and confusion of Joyce. One alone lacks something that we experience in reality; the multifaceted beauty and experience within life itself.