Indeterminacy (literature)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Indeterminacy in literature can be when the ending of a story is not wrapped up entirely, there are still questions to be answered. It also includes when the text of a book is a result of a particular cultural and social background of the reader, or when the language is such that the author’s original intention is not known when the work was originally created; in other words, it is when any element of a text requires the reader to decide on its meaning. The text of a book being indeterminate doesn’t mean all readings are of equal validity; however, it does mean that all meanings we draw from it are partial and provisional, and that what we write about it is itself a text, open to further interpretation. It may also be a principle of uncertainty invoked to deny the existence of any final or determinate meaning of a text, because of their declined status classical languages demonstrate an elevated sense of indeterminacy.


Indeterminacy theory states that all books may have the multiplicity of possible interpretations of given textual elements, because the author’s meaning or intent may not be clear, or the meaning may be distorted by pop culture.


  • In the novel Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm's death at the end of the novel is not clear and leads to speculation. In addition, he is alive in the sequel.
  • In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when the glass paperweight is broken the symbolism can be analyzed at multiple levels so the reader’s interpretation of the event can be different from someone else’s. Also, the reader may know less about O'Brien toward the end of the novel than at the beginning.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Indeterminacy (literature)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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