My teenage daughter hands me her high school summer reading book the other day and asks me to read a paragraph. She’s seventeen, wearing sunglasses and a new swimming suit, lying on the beach, and exasperated with this assignment. Her younger sister and friends swim in the lake, searching, faces down, for the giant rock named Big Yellow.
The real reason for a quest never involves the stated reason. In fact, more often than not, the quester fails at the stated task. So why do they go and why do we care? They go because of the stated task, mistakenly believing that it is their real mission. We know, however, that their quest is educational. They don’t know enough about the only subject that really matters: themselves. The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge.
Thomas C. Foster, How To Read Literature Like a Professor
With enormous gusto, I keep reading, and then I begin laughing at the chapter’s end; the writing is that great. Then I point out to her, Look, this is about you: a young adult, beginning the quest of her life.
She takes her sunglasses off and holds them in her hand. I am? she asks. And then she repeats, I am.
I hand her back the school’s book and tell her gently, Literature is about you.