Shifting Perspectives

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EL237 Writing About Lit

 

"The most direct presentation of an action and dialogue is the dramatic or objective point of view." Roberts, Edgar. Writing About Literature (83)

 

While this point of view is technically more direct, do not direct with "easy to follow," they are not at all the same thing. If you disagree, I dare you to read either Seeing or Blindness by Jose Saramagoo. He uses the super-distanced dramatic point of view. While the dramatic view-point my be described (based on the name) as that of a member of the audience watching the events unfold, like a play. Saramagoo's viewpoint of these books is that of the guy on the balcony of a building about a block from the theater, watching the play through the window, yet somehow catching bits of dialogue. For this viewpoint, Saramagoo uses no names, or quotation marks (making it difficult to figure out who is saying what). At one point during the beginning of Seeing he consistently refers to two characters as "the election clerk who had gone to the door earlier" and "the election clerk who had not gone to the door earlier." It gets pretty confusing at times, but in such a way that it actually adds to the story.

Anyway, all the discussion of viewpoints, got me thinking about some of the more impressive ones, and what made them different. When it mentioned the potential for unreliable 1st person accounts I thought of Bromden, the schizophrenic narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. While he doesn't necesarily lie to alter the story, he does blend reality with his halucinations. Orhan Pahmuk likewise offers a viewpoint, in My Name is Red that the reader must constantly question, in order to assertain the truth. His viewpoint shifts among the main characters, as well as a picture of a dog, a tree and other objects.

2 Comments

Josie Rush said:

"Seeing" sounds really confusing. Was it worth the effort to read?
And, on that note, when dealing with perspectives that may make the work more confusing, how much do we, as writers, put on the reader to understand? How much work can we expect them to do, and when does it get to the point where we have to have "a magnificent disregard for your reader, because if he can't follow you there's nothing you can do about it." (D. Parker)

DavidWilbanks Author Profile Page said:

I think it was worth the read, even though I was actually required to read it for European Lit. Then again I would recomend reading "Blindness" first, just because "Seeing" is a sequel. I think the degree to which we, as writers, get to challenge the reader really depends on the audience. If you want to sell a million paperbacks, it's probably best to keep it simple. If you want literary scholars to write volumes on your work, then go ahead and challenge them. Then again, if you hit the right balance, you can do both. "Blindness" is an international bestseller with a movie based on it, but it also won the Nobel Prize, and a quick article search yielded 15 peer-reviewed literary articles. (Not bad considering it's only been printed in English for 12 years).

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