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BEWARE

I hope you’re all checking over your shoulder today, seeing as it’s March 15th, that fated, ominous day where Caesar should have been paying a little bit more attention. “Beware the ides of March” has become synonymous with the bad omen, ignored warning and general “sleep with one eye open” sensibility. Omens and portents are everywhere in literature—the Greeks and Romans especially loved them.

In more modern literature, the omens are tougher to spot, maybe requiring a careful rereading (and a helpful English teacher to point them out at every turn), but they are a mainstay. Whether it’s Poe’s raven or the harbinger of Anne Shirley’s doomed marriage as she envisions her funeral the morning of her wedding, the little things an author inserts into their work are rarely there by accident.

The Huffington Post ran a slideshow of some pretty interesting omens in literature, from ancient texts through to Harry Potter (that darn Grim!)—some I hadn’t even considered until they were pointed out. It goes back to that rereading aspect. Picking out nuances and theretofore unrecognized significances, symbols and yes, omens, upon reading a book over again with knowledge of how it all plays out is one of the many delights of literature.

Have you discovered any signs or portents while rereading a favorite book? Anything you didn’t notice the first time around that seem so obvious upon a second or third session?

3 Responses to BEWARE

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    My favorite is still page 217 in the original version of Stephen King’s THE Shining where the kid goes into the forbidden room in the Overlook of the same number…About 10 years ago, they re-arranged the pagination in newer edition so it doesn’t occur anymore, though…

  2. EDWARD says:

    The First time I read Ngugi’s WEEP NOT, CHILD, I believed the younger brother and the education he desired were worth the older brother’s sacrifice to bring that about.
    That basic plot is true during the second reading as well. But during the second it was apparent that the younger brother, despite the sacrifices being made for him, is somewhat of an idiot. The younger brother is not deserving of the education his family has made for him. Although the younger brother gets what he desires, he seems unaware that much blood was spilled to get him an education which it seems he is not even smart enough to either merit or be grateful for. The second reading also depicts an older brother who seems to be aware of all this but makes his sacrifices for his younger brother anyway. The more undeserving the younger brother appears during the second reading, the more impressive the older brother’s sacrifice becomes. The second reading produces questions in my mind about sacrifice the first reading never triggered. Will the true brother please stand up. Is it the brother with the most diplomas? Or is it the brother with the admirable qualities of empathy, compassion, and sacrifice?
    It is as if subsequent readings made different protagonists from the same story.
    As Leonard Cohen once sang, “There are heroes in the seaweed.”

  3. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I can’t resist one more: (and pardon if I insist on linking fiction to reality, as I don’t think they’re disconnected) You probably don’t remember Olivia Goldsmith, Rachel; she made a fair amount of noise in the late 80’s and 90’s writing razor-edged roman a clefs about the rich and famous…Her best was a book called Bestseller in which she shot the publishing industry full of holes, named names, (Tom Clancy, et. al) and generally showcased what a loaded dice game the writer’s life can and usually is. So, how do you think this ego-puncturing crusader’s career ended? Death at 54 due to complications from cosmetic surgery…Redrum City Arizona, eh, what?

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