Everyday Semiotics

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gifts

The giving of gifts is perhaps an apter illustration of Wimsatt & Beardsley's intentional fallacy than anything in literature.

One chooses and ultimately delivers a gift based on one's own (inevitably limited) knowledge of what the other desires, or perhaps simply needs. The giver's estimation may be slightly off kilter, it may miss the mark completely, or it may be a bulls eye.

But in any case, on the receiving end there must always be dissimulation, however ecstatic the initial, unadulterated reaction to the unwrapping of the gift may be. Following this must come a narrative, the receiver's own, which may or may not resemble the giver's: "It's what I've always wanted," "How did you know?" and so forth.

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