We took a literature exam when I was in high school. It was forty-five questions in total. After long hours of exam, we waited until the answer came out so we could check ours. While I was checking the answer one by one, I stopped and doubted my eyes. One answer that I was certain was judged wrong. Not only me, but other students were confused too. The question was asking which word in the passage most relates to the word ‘doctor’ in a poem. I had to read the poem first and then the passage about Greek myth came later.
Let me briefly explain about this poem. The character in the poem was mentally ill, and he meets an old doctor who had white mustache. The doctor had long white mustache and looked like he was an imagery man. There is a certain image of imagery man that comes up to people’s mind in Korea. He examined the man’s pulse and after a while asked where he came from. After that the doctor asked if the man know someone he knew. Soon the character realizes the doctor was an old friend of his father. He felt better after realizing this fact. The passage I had to connect to this poem was about Theseus Myth, a part of Greek Mythology. Theseus is trying to enter the chamber of secret through the temple of doom. In the chamber there is a beast man called ‘Minotauros’ who eats human. It is easy to get lost once you get in there. The door is only open to the ones who are attempting to get in. Theseus somehow gets in to the chamber using his prediction and instinct. He kills the beast man and gets out following through the thread he put when he came in. The words that I had to choose were ‘Theseus’, ‘Minotauros’, ‘temple of doom’, ‘Chamber of Secret’, and ‘thread’
I was puzzled when I realized I chose the wrong answer. The teacher explained the reason “The doctor in the poem can be understood as a pathway of leading thoughts about father. This explains the reason of given answer, because the purpose of Theseus is to get into the chamber of secret and the temple of doom is what makes this possible. The character in the poem could get better because the doctor reminded him of his father.”
I was not persuaded by his explanation and told him how I thought about my answer. “When I first faced this question, this is how I thought. The doctor instinctively has positive image. I can say that thinking about father contributed to saving him from his mental illness, but I cannot say that the doctor did nothing in this process. The doctor is the person who made the medication possible. If you say the ‘doctor’ connects to ‘temple of doom’, other words in the choice should connect to certain words in the poem too. The thread takes important role in the Theseus Myth, and there is no certain word in the poem that relates to this.” I further went on with my explanation. “If you interpret the purpose of the question as what saves Theseus’s life, it is harder to accept the given answer. Temple of doom is what leads him into trouble, and the thread is what saves him at last.”
After a while, both answers were admitted. A lot of students in my class including me were relieved by the news. I felt from this incident that the ability to interpret literature should not be evaluated by multiple choices exams. Each students understood the certain meaning of the words differently. Literature interpretation depends on one’s background and perception. Multiple choice exams are not the best way to judge the ability. Instead, I think the analysis of the literature can be evaluated by multiple choice exams. It is based on the facts and the answers become more clear compared to the interpretation exam. Furthermore, I think literature interpretation education should be directed toward to accepting people’s different views.