Perspectives

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photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

Perspective is everything. When I was in college, I took a class with the wonderful fiction writer Joyce R. Kornblatt and read one of her novels, White Water, the story of a family reunion that runs over a weekend. The story is told from the perspective of five family members. Each section offers a different perspective, and moves the story forward. While I realize this technique is more common now, reading Kornblatt’s novel was the first time I’d been exposed to it, and I instantly fell in love with the idea. To do it well, you need each voice to feel different, and that challenge intrigued me. Beyond the challenge of it, though, I’m also fascinated by how different people see the world, and how and why they react differently to the same situation. Sometimes it’s not even just all the baggage and back story people carry with them, but even the pressure they’re under in the moment. Malcolm Gladwell touches on this idea in The Tipping Point when he talks about what makes people act the way they do. In it, he describes a group of seminary students, randomly assigned to give speeches, either on the topic of the good Samaritan, or on another, unrelated lesson. On their way to the speech, a person obviously in distress was placed along the path. Some of the seminarians – even though they were going to give a speech on helping a stranger in distress – stepped right over the man and went on their way. Others helped him. The difference turned on not which students had studied the ideas more closely, or even which had been randomly assigned to give the speech. It all depended on whether the individual speech-giver had been told he was late to his speech. I read the book a few years ago, but his example still sticks with me. Different perspectives matter, time pressure matters, the context matters. All so interesting when you’re studying people’s points of view. 

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One thought on “Perspectives

  1. Funny, I was just thinking about it last week. I brought The Wanderer by Sharon Creech in to the kids I do creative writing with, it’s in alternating perspectives, and we read a little of it and then the kids did two first person accounts of something–two siblings different versions, for instance. Same thing happened, two totally different stories. I was struck by what they all wrote. I always loved The Pigman too. Tipping Point sounds like a great story, too. So much to read!

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