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Vision And Viewpoint Essay

Vision and Viewpoint


The three texts with which I will discuss in relation to vision and viewpoint are ‘Wuthering Heights’ [WH] by Emily Bronte, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ [CN] by Mark Haddon, and ‘My Left Foot’ [MLF] by Jim Sheridan. Although set in very different times and places, it is possible to see comparisons and contrasts in the outlook of the texts. As MLF is an autobiography, we tend to see things from the point of view of Christy. However, we also see what others think about him and how he often disagrees with their opinion. In WH, Bronte uses many narrators (Lockwood, Nelly, Catherine’s diary, Isabelle’s letter, Zillah’s gossip, etc.) to tell her story from a number of perspectives. CN is the most intimately told story of the three as the reader is embedded in Christopher’s mindset and is invited to perceive the world through his eyes.

We clearly see the hardship of life and complex nature of relationships through the viewpoints of minor characters towards the main character in each of the texts. The disappointment of Mr Brown in his realisation of his son’s disability when Christy is born in MLF is similar to Mr Earnshaw’s family’s reaction to the arrival of the street child, Heathcliff in WH. Nelly states that ‘he was as uncomplaining as a lamb; though hardness, not gentleness, made him give little trouble.’ This hardness can also be seen in the character of Christy in MLF in the way he stands up to his father at the point when his father is about to strike out in frustration, but we also witness his gentle and loving side in his relationship to his mother as he comforts her in her upset state.

Symbols are used in each of the texts at the start. The locked gates and barred doors of Wuthering Heights along with the harsh weather in WH suggest the kind of cold and harsh characters and lifestyle we are to find within the text. The record player at the start of MLF, as Christy’s foot reaches down deliberately to stop the record playing, suggests the control and power Christy has over his own world. Christopher’s relationship to his world in CN is shown by him drawing pictures in his journal to represent various emotions in his attempt to understand how others feel towards him.

The director of MLF (Jim Sheridan) links the present to the past through a number of images such as Christy’s first written words of ‘MOTHER’ and ‘HELL’, and sounds such as babies crying in the background. The mother carrying Christy up the stairs can be perceived as a metaphor for her life’s struggle, as she literally has to carry the full weight of Christy on her shoulders. The director also uses long shadows when the father walks into the maternity ward giving the scene an ominous and symbolic feel. The images are sometimes negative ones suggesting a pessimistic vision of the bleak existence of the hero. Similar images are used throughout WH with mention of heaven and hell, ice and fire, blood imagery, windows, books, doors and gates used frequently. Each of these recurring motifs is used to provide us with a negative viewpoint of human relationships throughout most of the novel.

Colour is used effectively in the texts to allow readers visualise the worlds we are encountering. The contrast of the white limousines to the horse and cart and black cars at the start of MLF, set the two worlds (rich and poor) apart. Most of Christy’s paintings in MLF have black backgrounds suggesting perhaps how he perceives the world as bleak. Only one of his images is in colour in which he tries to express his love for Rachel, a love that she ultimately rejects. Colour is also used effectively by Bronte in WH with her elaborate descriptions of the lush greenness of the moors and bleak whiteness of the snow at the start of the book. This shows the reader the earthy nature of the setting which is similar to the grounded nature of the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine, and later Cathy and Hareton.  The colours of cars and food affect Christopher’s day in CN, as the main character battles with Asperger’s syndrome to try to live what he perceives to be a “normal” life.

Books are used by all three authors to show the power of education. Christy in MLF waits in the library in Lord Castlewelland’s house surrounded by books, having recently written a book himself. We later see how far he has travelled and how much he has achieved since his initial efforts to write the answer to a maths sum using a piece of chalk on the floor with his left foot. Lockwood similarly piles books in front of the bedroom window to hide from Catherine’s ghost at the start of WH. It is as if he is trying to hide behind his education to avoid facing up to the harsh reality of the Heights. Similarly, the power of literacy is later seen as Christy and Hareton must both learn to read and write to overcome other people’s perception of them as ignorant. Christopher too in CN writes a book in which he takes us through his creative journey in writing his story while at the same time relating it to us. Education also plays an important role in his creation of self image, as he informs us at the end that he will be the first in his school to sit his ‘A’ Level exam, an achievement that will give him some degree of self-perceived normality.

Hints of an Oedipus Complex are shown in a sequence in MLF where the competitive relationship between Christy and his father is shown in Paddy’s anger when Christy rubs out his chalk triangle. He misinterprets Christy’s actions, not for the first or last time. He seems to be the only one of the Brown family who cannot understand Christy’s speech. His dismissal of Christy as a “cripple” makes it hard for him to see beyond Christy’s disability. This contrasts greatly to the love and encouragement shown to Christy by his mother.  Christy’s first word (MOTHER) emphasises her centrality to his life. In WH, Heathcliff’s similar dismissal by characters such as Hindley and Edgar leads him also to form a very strong bond with his soul-mate, Catherine. Christopher in CN believes mistakenly, after finding letters written to him from his mother which his father had hidden in a attempt to shield his son from the truth, that his father has done harm to his mother and will therefore do harm to him too. It is this incident that triggers his hazardous journey to look for his mother, showing us an unexpected strength of character and determination on his part.

Having examined all three texts, it is clear that there are many comparative links to be found between them. Although the settings and time periods are all different, similarities in the vision and viewpoints of the authors are evident in all three. We perceive that all three main characters succeed in their own way, showing great strength of character and determination to do so. In this way end text concludes with a hopeful viewpoint for the future, despite the disadvantages and problems that each must face. And it is through this perception of their struggle that we, the readers, get to experience characters at a deep and complex level, ultimately giving us a better appreciation of the texts.

What you need to compare: whether the texts you are studying reveal a bright or dark outlook on life.

Subject matter that reveals a bright/dark outlook – examine what the texts focus on; is it a commentary of some sort, does it symbolize something else – what is the story about? Consider if this reveals a bright/dark outlook on life – does the plot inspire hope, optimism, despair, pessimism etc.

Aspects of life texts focus on – this is not like the above; you are not simply focusing on what the texts are about again. You are examining parts of life that the texts centre on; is it a child leaving home, poverty etc, and whether these show the texts to have a bright/dark outlook on life. Does poverty inspire hope? Normally not; so if a text focuses on poverty its outlook is usually dark as it shows a struggle in life etc.

Characters sharing a vision of life – here you should be focusing on some sort of life which the characters aspire towards or possess, and whether this again gives the texts a bright/dark outlook on life, and why this is so. Are the characters forced to live certain lives and thus have no freedom in their decisions? This shows entrapment, which would not fill many with optimism, and thus a text showing this will usually have a dark outlook on life.

Impressions of closing scenes – here you should focus on whether the closing scenes give us a bleak/bright outlook of life. The closing scenes normally do one of two things – resolve the problems or obstacles set for characters in the text (bright outlook) or leave these unresolved (dark).

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