People have a habit of saying, “What is the theme of your story?” and they expect you to give them a statement: “The theme of my story is the economic pressure of the machine on the middle class”—or some such absurdity. And when they’ve got a statement like that, they go off happy and feel it is no longer necessary to read the story.
Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction.
—Flannery O’Connor

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