Owen Barfield: "The relation between the mind and heart of man is a delicate mystery, and hardness is catching. It will . . . be found that there is a valid connection, at some level however deep, between what I called 'literalness' and a certain hardness of heart. Listen attentively to the response of a dull literal mind to what insistently presents itself as allegory or symbol, and you may detect a certain irritation, a faint, incipient aggressiveness in its refusal. Here I think is a deep-down moral gesture. You may, for instance, hear the literal man object suspiciously that he is being 'got at'. And this is quite correct. He is . . . An attempt is being made, of which he is dimly aware, to undermine his idols, and his feet are being invited on to the beginning of a long road, which in the end must lead him to self-knowledge . . . Instinctively he does not like it. He prefers to remain 'literal'. But of course he hardly knows that he prefers it, since self-knowledge is the very thing he is avoiding."
Barfield is writing about the use of language, but I think similar remarks can be made about a merely 'literal' reading of images.
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