Making Logical Assumptions When Reading Texts

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

A logical assumption may sound like an abstract concept, but in simplified language, it's just a statement or an idea that an author is implying. You may have heard of this concept as 'reading between the lines.' Click on the lesson to find out more about logical assumptions and see what they look like in the context of both non-fiction and fiction.

Ideally, Start at the Beginning

Logical assumptions can be drawn from various types of texts. A logical assumption is simply an idea that can be inferred, or identified, in a text without the writer stating it in an obvious way. One simple example may be the logical assumption that if you do not turn in your homework, your teacher will be disappointed in you. Your teacher may not state this out loud, but it can be applied or assumed that the disappointment will be there. This sort of deductive reasoning (because x, then y) can be applied to many sorts of literature. To further illustrate this idea, we will be looking at Virginia Woolf's non-fiction essay, 'A Room of One's Own' as well as the fictional short story, 'The Lottery,' by Shirley Jackson and the logical assumptions a reader can infer from each of these texts.

The Logic in Non-Fiction

Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf

'A Room of One's Own,' published in 1929, is an essay which stresses the need for and importance of women having a voice in literature and, to a larger extent, society. Woolf states, most blatantly, 'an opinion upon one minor point--a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved. I have shirked the duty of coming to a conclusion upon these two questions--women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.' Right away, several logical assumptions can be drawn from this passage alone:

  • Virginia Woolf is a feminist, which means that she believes in the rights of women and that men and women are equal and should be treated accordingly in society and the workplace.
  • Women in 1929 were not treated the same way as women in the 21st century.
  • Female writers of this time were probably not treated the same as their male counterparts.

Although Woolf does not say the above statements in so many words, we can gather (or assume) these ideas based on the context of what she is saying. Because women were regarded as lesser than men in the early 1900s, then it is logical to assume that Virginia Woolf is expressing her own uncommon ideas about feminism and the rights of women.

Fiction Has Patterns, Too

Written a couple decades after Virginia Woolf's essay, Shirley Jackson's short story, 'The Lottery' contains similar logical assumptions. The story is about a town of villagers who have gathered for an annual lottery. It is not until the end of the story that the reader learns the lucky 'winner' of the lottery is stoned to death by the others, though we never discover the reason behind this gruesome tradition. (Modern readers may be able to draw a comparison between Jackson's story and Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, which contains a similar theme.)

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