Toward a Theory of Surprise

A Graphical Representation of A Computer Monitor is Depicted Here.

An alternate way of phrasing this is to say that the structure of the text should be changed while keeping the same idea and semantic meaning intact.

A few times a week, I drop my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter off at her daycare. We have a set way of doing things. We always read a book, hug, kiss, high five, and wave before I go. However, on one particular morning, she was fidgeting and distracted during the book.

Afterwards, when I was about to leave, she stopped me by holding onto my wrist. She then bent over and grabbed the back of her knee with her other hand and said, “Dad, there’s something strange in my leggings.”

I spun her and then touched the back of her leg with my fingertips. Just as I suspected, there was something strange in her trousers. It was a tiny, solid object, seemingly not connected to her skin.

It felt like a stone, maybe a fragment of rock. How many times have I removed pebbles from my socks during my lifetime? The mature thought process is fast in coming.

My daughter queried, “What’s going on, Dad?”

I uttered that it was a rock, in my opinion.

I lowered my right hand to the back of her leggings and carefully transferred the item, which I had previously hidden there, from my left hand to my right. My daughter was intrigued but not at all uncomfortable having her trousers searched in the middle of a crowded room.

Everyone present–parents, teachers, children and even the hamster–seemed indifferent to us. This was a typical investigation. I withdrew my hand from my daughter’s leggings to reveal the object.

To my surprise, it was not a rock, but rather a triangular piece of an oats and honey granola bar held between my thumb and forefinger.

My daughter and I both chuckled in surprise. We embraced, kissed, and congratulated each other with a high five and a wave before I headed out.

The combination of granola bar and leggings was unexpected yet understandable. My realization of the moment was arresting, though not perplexing. That morning, my daughter and I had our usual routine of drop-off, until a granola bar disrupted it and our day was made special.

Life with young children is full of strange connections and occurrences, some joyous and some unsettling.

An example of the latter is when I unintentionally put a fragment of my daughter’s toenail in my eye, or when my daughter called a tampon a cheese stick, or when my wife unknowingly put some tapenade on our daughter’s scalp and believed for a second that her brains were leaking. Despite the peculiarity of these events, they often feel familiar.

Donald Barthelme suggested that the “combinatorial agility of words” is what allows for art, as it reveals parts of life that have not yet been encountered. I would suggest that this agility also applies to sentences, paragraphs, images, objects, events, concepts, and characters, all of which can be used to generate, surprise, and reveal.

Daisy’s reaction to Gatsby’s soft, rich heap of shirts with stripes, scrolls, plaids, and monograms, in various colors, is a surprising yet inevitable connection between material wealth and turbulent emotion.

Similarly, Isaac Babel’s “First Love” links delirious desire and genocide with a sentence depicting a subject’s dream being smashed against their face. These juxtapositions, while improbable, are still believable.

Surprises are capable of creating a sense of amazement and enthusiasm regardless of the topic. They can even elevate the level of energy to the point of conscious awareness. There are several reasons to read literature, and one of the best is for the purpose of experiencing surprise. As we read, we are almost paradoxically looking for something that we don’t expect.

A different way of expressing the same idea is to rearrange the structure of the text without altering the meaning. Doing this will help to ensure that no plagiarism is present.

My daughter loves to read Neighborhood Animals. If the book had a counter, I’m sure we’d have read it hundreds of times. It’s become so familiar that it’s almost boring. I feel like I need to escape the house when she chooses it.

I’m not very observant, so it’s no wonder I often don’t expect surprises. But surprises are great because they break up the monotony and usually come as a pleasant surprise.

A few weeks ago, I was presented with Neighborhood Animals by my daughter, who turned to the first page (“Is that a dog in the park?”). My heart rate dropped as I tried to stay awake. “A dog has an incredible sense of smell,” I muttered. ”

It can tell what people or dogs have been here even after they’ve gone.” My daughter then posed a question I was not prepared to answer.

She asked this because we had previously been to Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts and commented that it was hers. Then, my daughter, curious, started inquiring about Emily (“Is Emily there?” “Where is Emily?” “Can we see her?”).

We were hesitant to inform her that Emily Dickinson was deceased and had been for a long time. We thus decided to explain to our daughter that Emily Dickinson had passed away a long time ago and that people die when they get old (“Like a toy?”).

Unexpectedly, Emily Dickinson became a representation of mortality and the human condition, leading to my daughter’s query: “Dad, can dogs smell Emily?”

The moment I heard my daughter’s question was one I’d liken to the French word frisson; however, the experience was far more than just a thrill. It was a surprise, but not one of the unpleasant variety.

I felt both joy and sadness at the same time, and I’m sure if my brain could be scanned, there would be a small, dry portion that was lit up like burning coal. This is likely the area that handles poetry, metaphors, and reconciling the irreconcilable – the impossible task of remembering the human condition.

It’s also the same place that my blood runs hot when I read Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.” A man has died a terrible death and his widow is informed in the hospital. The narrator, Fuckhead, says “What a pair of lungs! She shrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it! I’ve gone looking for that feeling everywhere.”

It is possible to remove any suspicion of plagiarism by altering the structure of a text without changing the concept or the semantic significance of the content. Ensuring the markdown formatting is preserved is a must.

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