Point of view is an essential element to consider when reading literature of any kind. How an author chooses to tell a story, directly affects how and what the reader sees and feels. Most authors write their stories with a certain point of view in order to keep the reader interested and to help them better understand the characters and their situations. In Truman Capotes, “My Side of the Matter”, and John Cheevers, “Five-Forty-Eight”, these reasons are the basis for their different points of view.
Capotes, “My Side of the Matter, was written in subjective narrative. This means that the story is being told to a particular listener or group of listeners at the conclusion of an event. Most of the time the narrator isnt looking at the situation objectively and as Moffett says, “seem unreliable, try to get us on their side, or assume values or views we dont share” (p.179). Right away we become aware of this in the opening paragraph. There seems to be a sense of urgency for the narrator to tell the reader “the truth”:
I know what is being said about me and you can take my side or theirs,
thats your own business. Its my word against Eunices and Olivia-Anns,
and it should be plain enough to anyone with two good eye which one of
us has their wits about them. I just want the citizens of the USA to
know the facts thats all (p.189).
Already the reader is aware that this is a one sided story and that the narrator has certain biases towards certain characters. Which keeps the reader interested, wanting to read
more to find out what happened, and to see if there is a justification for this narrators accusations.
The next thing that this particular point of view reveals is the narrators personal regrets, which is a ploy to get the reader to feel what he feels along with him in order for him to successfully get the reader into his shoes. He tells us the story but not without throwing in his two cents of how the whole situation could have been avoided. There seems to be a sense of great regret on the main characters part, which is clearly shown in a few passages. “It began six months ago when I married Marge. That was the first thing I did wrong” (p.189). “Well, we were married going on three months when Marge ups and gets pregnant; the second thing I did wrong (p.189). “George Far Sylvester is the name that weve planned for the babyOnly the way things stand I have positively no feelings in the matter now whatsoever”(p.192-3). The reader is now drawn into the story wondering how this man could regret such a thing as marriage and his new child on the way.
As the reader reads further along, the narrators hostility towards his wifes aunts becomes quite evident. From the very first time the aunts are introduced, the reader gets a sense of what the young mans life with these two women are like. The first aunt we learn to hate is Eunice. “The very first words Eunice said when I stepped inside this house were, So this is what you ran off behind our backs and married, Marge?” (p.191).
According to the narrator, though it is Eunices sister, Olivia-Ann who is the worst of all.
Olivia-Ann, whos been standing there with her mouth so wide the flies
could buzz in and out, says, “You heard what sister said. Hes not any
sort of man whatsoever. The very idea of this little runt running around
claiming to be a man! Why, he isnt even of the male sex! (p.191).
The aunts constant attacks on his manhood and his feeling of helplessness against these two women is what the narrator uses to pull the readers to his side of the story.
The feeling the reader has for the narrators wife shifts from like to dislike along with the narrator. Even though in the third paragraph of the story the narrator tells us of his regrets of marrying her, her opening dialogue confuses the reader as to why he could feel this way. After her aunts violent attack on his manhood, she stands up for him:
Marge says, “Ill give you to understand that Im legally wed till death do
us part to this man by a certified justice of the peace as three and one half
months ago. Ask anybody. Further more, Aunt Eunice, he is free, white
and sixteen. Furthermore, George Far Sylvester does not appreciate
hearing his father referred to in any such manner” (p.192).
However, Marges thought of her husband dont stay this way, thanks to her two aunts. So along with the narrator, the feelings of love turn to a subtle form of hate. “She (Eunice) has turned that girl against me in the most villainous fashion that words could not describe” (p.194). Of course the reader doesnt exactly buy into to it as this point because there is no evidence of her turning against him. Later on we understand why he feels this way
Marge loses her belief in her husband and turns to join her aunts in their vendetta against him. After the narrator bats Bluebell on the head with an umbrella, Aunt Eunice tells Marge to go get her fathers sword and what does she do? “So Marge gets Papas sword and hands it to Eunice. Talk about wifely devotion!” (p.198). At this point the narrator and the reader are fed up with everyone in the story and feel nothing but hate. By the end of the story, the narrator does such a good job in presenting his side that the reader almost has no choice but to believe every word he said and feel everything he felt.
The same thing is true of John Cheevers, “Five-Forty-Eight”, the only difference being how it is presented. Cheevers story was written in anonymous narration-single character point of view. Moffett describes this character point of view beautifully when he says:
Readers see the world as that chosen person sees it, but they also see it as
the author understands it, for the hidden narrator may be paraphrasing what
the character thinks as well as organizing and perhaps commenting on the
Cheever uses this perspective to help gain insight of the story and situation and make the reader see it in a non-bias light, unlike Capote. It is almost like watching a movie. The reader is an outside viewer who is objectively seeing the situation even if the characters are not.
The story starts off in the middle of a situation leaving the reader wondering what its all about. “When Blake stepped off the elevator, he saw herHe did not approach
her. She had no legitimate business with him. They had nothing to say”(p.365). This leaves the reader wanting to find out more about Blake, “her”, and the reason why these two people are connected.
At this point the reader is still observing the situation as an outsider and have yet to be introduced to Blakes personal thoughts and feelings. Towards the end of the second paragraph the author lets us into Blakes mind while also foreshadowing a little bit.
She might be meaning to do him harm-she night be meaning to kill him
He could run-although he was afraid that if he did run, it might precipitate
the violence he now felt sure she had planned (p.369).
The author makes the reader feel what the character is experiencing, anxiety, fear, and dread. These feelings are reinforced when the author reveals to the reader that the situation has turned deadly. There seems to be no hope, no glimpse of help. Both Blake and the reader feel that they are at this womans mercy.
When he realizes that help would not arrive feelings of regret and “wouldve” “couldve” overpower him and the reader begins to see the characteristics of the insanity in this woman:
It was like regretting his lack of suspicion when she first mentioned her
months in the hospital. It was like regretting his failure to have been
warned by her shyness, her diffidence, and the handwriting that looked like
the marks of a claw. Theres no way now of rectifying his mistakes, and he
felt-for perhaps the first time in his mature life-the full force of regret.
As the tension in the story heightens so does the readers interest in the story. Towards the end, both the reader and Blake are certain that death is eminent. But as insanely as all of this began, it comes to an end. She forces Blake to put his face in the dirt. The combination of this act and his weeping is all it takes to make her feel better and to leave Blake alone and alive.
Now I feel better, she said. Now I can wash my hands of all this,
because you see there is some kindness, some sadness in me that I can
find again and use. I can wash my hands. Then he heard her footsteps go
away from him over the rubble.
And just as calmly as he walked off the elevator in the beginning, he got up and walked home, leaving the reader to ask why.
In both of these stories plot, feelings, and events are all a direct result of the type of point of view the author uses. Without them the story, the view, and the feelings portrayed would be totally different. The same goes for every other story that has ever been written or read. Try to imagine what it would be like if your favorite story was told from a different view point. Would it be the same story? More likely than not, it wouldnt be. You would discover, just as I have, that the point of view is directly related to how a story is perceived.