Wideman’s “Stories” has everything to do with interpretation. The text is interpreted by different people. Wideman’s story gives the reader insight into interpretation by writing through the definition of interpretation and writing with ambiguity so that the reader can determine for themselves what they want to understand. So what is interpretation exactly?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, interpretation is the act or the result of explaining something to someone or a particular adaptation or version of a work, method, or style. In Wideman’s story the reader sees both definitions. In Wideman’s story the first section explains the scene through the use of questions followed by a perspective switch into the first person that invites the reader into the narrative. Interpretation in the first definition of the word is achieved through the first half of the story.
The narrator tells the reader what is in the scene but the observations of the character are written with such ambiguity that is impossible to tell whether the man eating the banana is separate from the narrator. The initial section where there are only questions reads like a train of though so could be either coming from a separate narrator or the man eating the banana. The ambiguity with which it is written leads the readers to interpret the piece themselves. What also comes through with Wideman’s story is that the reader needs to bring their own experiences and views on the world which make this piece interesting because every reader has a different interpretation based on their own experiences in life and what they see as reality. This is shown in the quote “The only answer I know is this: all the stories I could make from this man walking in the rain eating banana would be sad.” Everyone’s interpretation of the scene in front of them would be colored by how they are feeling and their previous experiences. The second part of the definition is shown through the unique format in which he chose to write it. Traditionally stories are written with questions with a question mark at the end and sentences with a period at the end. This is not the case for this piece of text. Every sentence is phrased as a question with periods at the end of each which makes you think about the underlying meaning behind the sentence and how to interpret that question that isn’t really a question.