Close reading literature is an incredibly rewarding experience. It allows us to not only learn more about the work itself but also about ourselves. I believe that writers always write with a purpose, and close reading helps us to discover the pieces of the work that when put together, lead us to the bigger picture. However, we as readers give the work meaning, and sometimes our interpretation conflicts with the author’s purpose – ultimately we each create our own individual picture of the work in question. Whenever I read, I always feel that I am vicariously experiencing the events in the novel. Reading is a personal experience. For instance, say that ironically we have all been to Maryland at one point in our lives and have stayed at the same hotel and have gone to the same beach, etc. Did we all have the same exact experience? Of course not.
Looking at Huck Finn in particular, there are numerous articles and essays which close read Huck Finn with a modern perspective. We gain so much from doing so. Literature is not trapped in the time period in which the novel was written or set, and our own opinions on literature should not be defined by those of the author. By interpreting Huck Finn, we bring it closer to ourselves in the present day. I think it also brings us closer to each other. Again, it’s like asking someone “Wow, I’ve been to London – how did you like it? Did you see the Tower of London? What did you think? I LOVED it.” That’s exactly what we do with close reading. We have our own experience with the text, and then often share this experience with others. I’ll have to admit – I always find author biographies extremely useful when reading literature as so many writers dip into their own lives for inspiration. But again, that’s how I like to experience literature. I don’t think you can force someone to have a certain experience/close reading of a novel. The purpose of close reading is to create your own purpose.