While reading Dobie’s presentation of the formalist school, I found it intriguing to read, in the section on unity, that the formalist values tension and paradox within a story. I have never really thought of reading a piece that way; I have generally valued works of the literature that are able to move me in one grand sweep emotionally, not confuse me or conflict me. I imagine that such a valuing of tension in a story, while it seems foreign to traditional values, is really a bit of a centerpiece for formalist reading. The more tension there is means that there are more elements at play to analyze and examine.
While I may initially deny my familiarity with tension and paradox, I find myself agreeing with the formalists; I appreciate literature more when there is a contradiction in the characterization and language. Our culture values the anti-hero, a product of irony and paradox within a story, rather greatly. While I may initially turn my nose up at the formalists and what seems to their elitist views on literary analysis, they cut to the heart of why many of us read literature. We want to be challenged, unsettled, and conflicted. When an author’s work does that for us, we feel more gratified by it and feel like our journey through the words has been more full.