Whenever we read a book, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. As we progress from page one through the rest of the chapters, the story develops, and as a result, we gain a clear picture and representation of what it is the author is trying to convey.
It doesn’t matter if it is a book explaining the way to build a website from scratch or a novel about a detective solving crimes, to understand the story and development of the plot or procedures required we must start at the beginning. Should we start in the middle, we are missing the developing storyline and left in the position of having to try and make sense of text without the prior information giving outline and context.
When we read a book from the beginning, we are introduced to the characters in play, their location, what it is they do, their background or history, how they interact with other characters, and even the jobs they might have or the reason they behave in a certain way. Without this information the story becomes disjointed and the interpretation of the events by reading from the middle of the book become sporadic and misplaced.
For instance: if the first line you read in the middle of the book says, “He pulled out the gun and instead of shooting, he threw it in the river”. Without knowing the character, the context of this event, who he did not shoot and why we are left in the position of trying to imagine what had occurred previously, we have to try and piece together something that makes sense from the second half of the book. We need to become detectives ourselves using only the context of the half of the book we are reading. If the next line in this book said: “When they saw this, they ran away as fast as they could”. What do we understand of the story? It is, in fact, a bit more confusing. We have no context with which to discern the events and why they are happening.
So, there are only two ways to try and resolve the problems that come along with this:
1. We try and move on, placing ideas from our mind and experience into the story to try and make sense of the events.
2. We go back and study the beginning of the book to gain a correct perspective on events to make sense of the story.
The first way leaves the story open to the interpretation of the reader. They would have to try to evaluate the events in some way so that they will make sense. The limits on imagining what has happened and what is intended by the author are infinite. Only limited by the imaginations of the people trying to make sense of a book read from the middle. You could end up with as many as 40,000 or more different versions of the events perceived from the minds of those that continue to study the material from the middle. Despite the many differing opinions of the various people, blindness comes over them leaving them in the position whereby they continue in their efforts to make sense of the story from the middle because it has become a tradition to do so.
Once this position becomes prevalent, the readers will all start vying with each other to make determinations as to who is right and will start to resent others who have a different interpretation. The authors intent has been long left behind at this point and the opinions of the interpreters are debated instead of understanding the books original storyline.
This creates many problems, not so much with a novel or short story, but when a book is giving instructions on how to do something particular, it becomes of major importance. If you do not correctly and in order follow the instructions clearly on how to mix the chemicals for fertilizer, you could end up blowing yourself up instead, as when some of these chemicals are mixed, they become explosive. If you read in the second half of the manual the final list of chemicals needed but have not read the first half on the ratios required, you could literally “blow your mind” trying to figure out the correct mixture.
On the other hand, when the book is read in its entirety, the main concepts of the author are made visible, and though people can dispute some of the conclusions of the author. The meaning remains clear. In any English literature class, books are often read and dissected by the students at the behest of the teacher. Characters are examined and their intent is discussed. There are times when a student will have a differing opinion of the teacher as to which theory is right. Was a particular character losing his mind, or was he calculating and cold? Was the protagonist actually in love with the subject of his desire or trying to control them through manipulation?
So, even when a story is read from the beginning, some disagreement can occur because the authors intent can be questioned. However, this format of reading brings much more clarity and leaves a lot less to the imagination than the former method. Despite readers coming to some differences of opinion over issues explained the book, the authors intent is easier to discern, the story is understood. The novel makes sense, and in the end, it wasn’t the butler who did it after all. With the book on fertilizer manufacturing, all safety protocols and measurements were adhered to and a usable product is produced.
So why call this article “The Next Chapter”?
If we start reading a book from the middle, the picture we try to develop about the intent of the author without background leaves us scrambling for definition. So, by the time we get to the next chapter we have already started to determine what the book is about from our perspective. As a result, the next chapter must be interpreted in light of what we have just read and determined in our minds as to what is correct. The next chapter therefore must reinforce what we have determined, and if it doesn’t we have to change its context to suit our definition. This is often done by allergisation, the practice of trying to draw out what it is believed the author intended to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together. The trouble is, the intent of the author is not fully known because the beginning of the book is neglected.
This method can and does, often, leave a very distorted view far from the authors intended meaning. Especially after the wrong, although good-intentioned manipulation over many years by various people trying to make the text make sense. As a result, it becomes a tradition to interpret the work this way and this technique becomes prevalent. The first part of the book is no longer regarded as relevant and all focus is on the second half of the book with the now newly perceived ideas as to its meaning. The first half of the book and its instructions and the characteristics of the protagonist are deemed unnecessary as a new way has developed.
However, when one reads the entire book and the full sweeping scope of the story is understood; for example, why does that particular building hold such importance for the people? What happens when the protagonist is disobeyed and what are the punishments for that disobedience? If the storyline in the first half of the book develops a plot where the importance of a certain document is critical in the development of the story at the end of the book, why is it not recognised as important in the second half? The importance of this document is dismissed because it is not understood as relevant anymore. The new storyline developed over the years has succeeded in making the importance of the original document to the story immaterial.
When this happens, the story is no longer the story of the author but a new story, a new way to find an ending that suits the desires of the people trying to find meaning in the second half of the book.
When read in light of the authors intent, we can already perceive the meaning of the next chapter. We read it in light of the information previously building the plot and already provided in the book. If a document was important and is understood to be integral to the story, we see it in everything we see the author writing. He no longer has need by the second half of the book to keep making mention of it and how it is to be used and understood, that was established in the first half of the book.
The same problems can occur when we only read the first half of the book and don’t bother to finish it. The first half prepares us for the end, it builds the picture of what is to come. There are hints and promises of a beautiful ending to the story despite the adversity and hardship the characters go through. By not reading the second half, we never see how the story turns out and the full extent of the capacity of the story.
As a result, we have similar problems as with those that only read the second half. The first half builds the story beautifully, it demonstrates all that is needed to understand the protagonist and what he promises to bring about. Reading only the first half though leaves the reader having to develop in his mind what he thinks will happen in the end. He has read the promises, he has understood the plans laid out bringing the plot together, but the ending is missing. So, he develops an ending according to what he thinks it should be according to the information he has and his imagination.
Like those that only read the second half, he does not have all the information and the conclusions of the authors intended complete story are missed entirely.
To understand the next chapter of any book, we must start at the beginning, understand the concepts and principles the author is bringing out. Come to terms with the plot and trust that the author knows how the book will end and bring it about in a way that surprises, delights and satisfies the reader. An ending without the beginning can leave the reader without a sense of joy because he misunderstood the importance of the document outlined in the first half, resulting in confusion when the end is nothing like they imagined.
The same for those that read only the first half, when the ending comes, it is not what they were imagining, they expected the document and the future it promised to be one way, but it was not, they missed the stories true intent and are also disillusioned with the ending once it is revealed. It didn’t go according to their desire and imagination, not according to the practice of justifying their position through the tradition developed.
When a book is not read in its entirety, understanding can only come by developing a technique of interpretation to justify the preferred half of the book. It then becomes an issue when someone wants to read the whole book and reunite the story. Those reading the first half only reject your conclusions about the books ending because they have decided on an ending themselves.
Those reading only the second half disagree with you because you understand the importance of the document in the story which clarifies the ending. But is disrupts the practices and ideology they have developed rejecting that document as irrelevant and unimportant to their half of the book.
As a reader of the whole book, you become a pariah in the eyes of both sides. You are rocking the boat and when their positions are challenged, they tell you that you are deceived. Using arguments to justify their position from the traditional teachings developed coagulating their perspective into a professed truth beyond the scope of the true story and the authors intent.
Read the whole book and get the full story. Don’t let others who do not do this lead you into a position where you are led away from knowing the true intent of the author. Know the first half of the book and how it was intended for all the people reading it to understand, so the second half is understood in the correct context and the ending makes more sense.
Dr M Debono-De-Laurnetis
'Though born in England, the author was brought up in Brooklyn NY within the Jewish community as his step-father was Jewish.