The Dark Night of the Soul
It was hard for me to understand Miller’s purpose behind The Dark Night of the Soul. Miller starts the essay narrating the terrible events at Columbine High school where two distraught high scholars named Eric Harries and Dylan Klebold carry out a number of really shocking murders. Miller puts forwards some reasons to explain the cause of these murders such as inattentive parents, indifferent guidance counselors, insensitive jocks, the media, the internet…He then looks at reading and writing to affirm that they aren’t going to stop the violence of the world. They aren’t either going to change students’ behavior.
“ It’s reassuring to think that either the work of the legal system or the educational system can reduce or eliminate altogether the threat of the unpredictable and the unforeseen. This is why we have childproof medicine bottles, penalties for not buckling up, informational literature on family planning for students in junior high: these are all examples of responsible responses to known problems.”(421).
But what Miller is saying is that there isn’t really a response to the “schoolyard massacres”. And if there was one, it wouldn’t be reading and writing. This makes
the author arise questions such as the following:
Aside from gathering and organizing information, aside from generating critiques and analyses that forever fall on deaf ears, what might the literature arts be said to be good for?
Is there any way to justify or explain a life spent working with and teaching others to work with texts?
Why bother with reading and writing when the world is so obviously going to hell?
This made me think as Miller as doubtful about the power of reading and writing. However, as I kept reading the following sections, I realized that what the author tries to do is to share with the reader his concern about how people see reading and writing in our days. Miller wants to transmit to us that reading and writing have very powerful influences in people and their imagination, but he believes the power of reading and writing is not being utilized as much in the modern world. Through the examples he presents in the Dark Night of the Soul he tries to show different perspectives of reading and writing so that the reader realizes that both are really powerful realities which can have a big influence in someone’s life.
In the prince of Darkness we are introduced to a story, focused on two writers, where every single act described is somehow related to the world of reading and writing. In the following section, Following the world, we get to know Mackandles’ss story, an example of the foolishness of those who believe more in the power of books than in the power of the natural world. Then the reader comes across the figure of Descartes, who doubted everything he had believed in before. With, Joining the liar’s club, Miller introduces another perspective of writing; writing as a hermeneutic practice that involves witnessing the mundane horrors of the past in order to make peace with the past. Finally he tries to put together some ideas developed and raises the following question:
Can teachers of first year writing be moved beyond praising students for generating arguments without consequence, though with no interest in action?
The author ends this profound essay with a mysterious statement:
“The only way out is through”
I see this statement as Miller trying to say to us that we can’t go back in time and try to fix things. The only way to try and help things alone is to learn from our mistakes and move on. We have to start going forward, we can’t get stuck in the past because the farther times moves forward and we stay back, the harder it is to get out.