How to Grasp the Meaning of Printed Page ( I )

Anywhere in the world, the printed page whatever the subject matter is performed basically the same functions.

It informs, educates and entertains us.

It is clearly safe then to say it is a world of shared meanings between two important communities whose roles are nothing but complimentary.

Which communities am I referring to here?

The communities of writers and readers of course!

Any printed page like you know is a product of the writer's experience or experiences, and where necessary those of others he feels the stimulus 
to communicate. Or in many instances too imaginative.

Whether you like it or not, the ways and forms this takes are solely left to the writer's prerogatives and expertise.

It includes but not limited to drama, novel and poetry.

Whatever the form he chooses, words remain yet the tools or the vehicles of his noble endeavor.

Put more aptly words are symbols- keys to ideas he wishes to pass across.

And at any rate, the readers that are well equipped to interpret them will achieve more than others who are not.

Take for instance words like- 'Ogun Lakaaye Oshiimole'.

To anyone for that matter who is alien to the Yoruba culture these are totally a row of meaningless letters.

But to the Yoruba’s from western Nigeria, it is the symbol of a big fearful spirit.

In fact, those words perfectly characterized their god of iron and his threesome personalities.

While the interpreter's primary goal is to derive all the joyful benefits in any work of literature.

And appropriate actions are taken based on various insights shared by the writer.

Or alternatively, that his sense of feel-good mood is greatly enhanced after completing an adventure among one or a set literary masterpieces.

For indeed there are pieces crafted to give us a great escape from our world of painful realities.

To make us exercise our own innate imaginative abilities too.

In the course of doing just this, the reader is more likely to encounter obstacles to his goal.

However contrary to believe in some quarters, writers do not deliberately set out to place barriers in the path of people they wish to inform, educate and entertain.

Because just as we have writer’s blocks, so also are there reader’s blocks which must be demolished before any meaning can be made out of any selection.

You will agree with me that a writer must have crushed his stumbling blocks before being able to craft anything of beneficial note.

Any difficulty experienced by the reader, therefore, could be as a result of archaic or unfamiliar choice of words in the given selection.

Or the work in question is poetic or esoteric expressing know-how exclusive to some social groups.

In some cases too, it could be as a result of words not used in their literary sense.

Whatever the case may be still as a necessity interpreter must find ways of grasping the meaning of any selection before it could be said that his task is done.

In the task of grasping the meaning of the printed page, it is in the writer's best interest to watch out for things that contribute more to making his understanding effortless and above all his joy complete.


Writers, Poets, Essayists, Novelists, Columnists, Dramatists are like finely strung and well attuned musical instruments which record the vibrations of life.

Expected, they fill us on a daily basis with the basic beauty and ugliness in life captured by their lively imaginations and even arresting intuitions.

It doesn't end there!

They are visionary, instinctive and even prophetic men and women who see things in life in their diverse proportions both in shapes and colors and measure; and communicate such with ease that comes with their high art in ways less gifted people would not without help.

They see all about us landscapes of beauty; ugliness in its most pronounce or subtle form; looming disasters, triumphs and defeats; joy and sorrow; and struggles of indigenous people the world over.

Literature, therefore, is an imaginative record of meaning and understanding of life in its purest forms as captured by the minds of writers.

Having said that, it should be known that literature has two basic functions namely insight and pleasure.


Writers generally offer insights into ideas, aspirations of people and Nations, events, places and experience of their own lives inclusive just as it’s more about others with views to enriching our lives.

For instance Wole Soyinka the Nigerian Nobel laureate writes exclusively about struggles for political emancipation and social justice in his country as well as in the larger African and global stages.

He is an iconoclastic dramatist and poet who create compelling literature of existence drawing freely from his rich cultural milieu.

He is equally an educator par excellence. He is an unrepentant cultural and human rights activist.

Men and women like that abound the world over to whom we would eternally be indebted for creating continuous writings in different genres at the costs of great personal liberty and even deaths.

Most time the knowledge of a writer's life: his childhood, his politics and beliefs, his struggles can go a long way in helping the reader to understand their works better.

And what he chooses to write about and why he writes the way he writes.

Until you know for instance what American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe went through in life it would be so difficult to completely appreciate why most of his works give us dark and eerie moods.

So in appreciating the works of a writer, readers would need some basic understanding about his life and time.

Insights, as you might have rightly guessed, are significantly about the core of thoughts, philosophy, principles, ideals and themes underlining a work of literature and its creators nonetheless.

While though some literary works betray this expected ends deliberately; most work of art to which literature belongs primarily must have one or more themes it addresses to have meaning.


We derive pleasure in a work of literature through a variety of way.

Whenever readers set out to read a selection they should naturally, be alert to share what the writer sees and feels for some writers are exceedingly gifted at communicating pleasurable dimensions to incidents and realities in life.

Imagine the breathtaking mood of joy or excitement we are thrown when we read some poetic selections possibly because of the poet's uncanny ability to perceive the mysterious or for the daring range of thoughts expressed.

Or for the writer's ability to humor us as the narrative becomes more intensive or dark.

Our ability to partake in this pleasurable function of the literature will depend more on our readiness to have steady connections with the writer regardless of his genre.

Failure to do this might lead regrettably to loss of this an important gain in the process of 'Understanding the Unseen'.



All printed pages describe or document nature, people, events, places, and ideas which of necessity must be of interest to you as a reader for their inspirational, informative, educational, political, cultural, ideological, social and entertainment relevance.

The ability of the writer to communicate these in the most vivid language possible contributes more to the reader's ease at grasping the meaning he wishes to share.

Likewise the interpreter's ability to follow through the fine details of the writer's insights is a skill worth having and nurturing.

Similarly, this vivid description might as well involve personalities who add human dimensions to the narratives.

Indeed, there are no events without personalities behind them.

In this process as readers, we are more likely to encounter ourselves and our joy complete.

Take for example this short passage from ‘At His Brother’s Tomb,’ by Robert Ingersoll: 

Life is narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two extremities.

We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. 

From the voiceless lips of the un-replying dead there comes no word, but in the night of dead hope sees a star,
and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.


Image or imagery is a word picture drawn through comparisons between two ideas or objects to show their parallel areas of symbolic similarities.

Much of our pleasure in poetry is due to the beauty of it imagery.

Consider, for instance, in Matthew Arnold’s “The Forsaken Mermaid.” the description of the ocean caverns where we lay:

Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep,
Where the winds are all asleep;
Where the spent lights quiver and gleam,
Where the salt weed sways in the stream,
Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with un-shut eyes,
Round the world forever and aye.
                                MATHEW ARNOLD.  
The two figures of speech of simile and metaphor enable readers to see the likeness of two concepts or situations with little or no difficulty at all.

These among others equally make readers participate in a given experience through their minds’ eyes.

Using the device of simile, for example trying to show the solidity of a family a writer may say:

The family is as solid as a rock.

Similarly, a writer trying to metaphorically convey a sense of someone completely immersed in a lot of work might say:

‘He is drowned in paper works.’


Figures of speech generally are imaginative, concrete, economical ways of conveying abstract ideas.

Most literary selections derive their strength from their extensive use.

Literary devices expertly used heighten the meaning of a selection regardless where they were used in the course of its thematic development.

Literary devices in question include alliteration, assonance, allusion, oxymoron, rhyme, metaphor, simile, personification etc.

They are used to draw out richer meanings in a printed page. And readers who are familiar with many would find their task of drawing out the meaning in a selection quite easy.

Take for instance these panegyric lines on the great Mohammed Ali :

Black tarantula whose antics hypnotizes the foes.
Butterfly side-slipping death from the rockets probes.
Bee whose sting, unsheathed, picks the teeth
Of the raging hippopotamus, then fans
The jaw’s convergence with its flighty wings.
Needle that threads the snapping fangs
Of crocodile knots the tusks of an elephant
On rampage. Cricket that clap and chirrups
Round the flailing horn of the rhinoceros,
Then shuffles, does a bugaloo, tap-dances on its tip.

Culled from Wole Soyinka’s poem: ‘Mohammed Ali at the Ring Side, 1985’

Or for example, King Lear, using a metaphor, calls ingratitude a:

Marble-hearted fiend 

Much beauty of simile and metaphors can also be found in Alfred Tennyson’s poem, “The Eagle,”

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Note, finally also, Robert Frost’s use of personification when he talks about his little horse:

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.

From ‘Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening’

Much of the joy we derive from the printed page is as a result of their rhythms and cadence.

Some poetry selections more than others appeals to us for their rhythmic variations in time and space.

And some writers are more gifted than others with words and their sound.

Through the rhythms in the flow of poetic lines some poets give us unparallel joy.

For instance, W. B Yeats gave us one of the most melodic opening lines in English poetry to date in a poem he wrote in memory of Eva Gore-
booth and Con Mickiewicz. 

And the line goes thus:

The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,

No less melodic is this opening line from my own yet to be published poem titled:  The Business Register:’

They were your ideas of a dignified old couple,
Perfect perceptible to eyes,
Index by conservative pieties.


“Language, define, is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols through which a social group cooperates”.

Its written variant is just as beautiful to those who know how to effectively communicate with it.

Through different stylistic approaches open to different writers they call us to routine exercises in grasping the elements of the beauty of their written works.  

This is a beauty from which we are never fully satisfied with.

As might be seen in this utterly magical little poem by the late Alexandrian Greek poet – C.P Cavafy titled ‘The Afternoon Sun’:

“This room, how well I know it.
Now they are rented this one out and the next
As business offices. The whole house has become
Offices for agents, and merchants, and Companies.

O how familiar it is, this room.

Near the door just here there was the sofa,
And in front of it a Turkish carpet;
Close by the shelf with two yellow vases.
On the right; no, opposite, a wardrobe with a mirror.
In the middle a table where he used to write;
And the three big wicker chairs.
At the side of the window was the bed
Where we used to make love so many times.

They must be somewhere the poor old things.
At the side of the window was the bed;
The afternoon sun fell on it half-way up.

....One afternoon at four o’clock, we parted
Only for a week  ....Alas,
The week became perpetual.”


Through tone-colour some writers give us great pleasure. By tone-color we mean sound effect in the language in general.

A whole printed page may give us pleasure because it sounds lovingly hints the idea or emotions which the author is trying to convey; for example 

... The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

                    ALFRED TENNYSON.


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