Monday, September 23, 2013

Wuthering Heights: What a Passionate Storm

"Wuthering Heights", a story as ominous and turbulent as the bustling winds and erratic weather that surrounds the backdrop, portrays a love story distorted by violent passions, vast selfishness, and merciless revenge. And yet, to these two tortured souls, Heathcliff and Catherine, their exposed souls, their very desires are bled into this love. In their eyes, the love they share is in its most pure and genuine form. To the two narrators of this story, Nelly and Lockwood, this love is destructive, cruel, and narcissistic.

Catherine abuses the emotions of those around her, marrying Linton out of pure thirst for an ideal life. She manipulates her environment, using others for her own personal gain. Catherine has no regard for anyone but Heathcliff, he is her sole focus. He lights a fire within her, drawing her away from civilized manners and into the stormy fits of blunt enjoyment and an unbounded vehemence for love. Likewise, Heathcliff longs only for the crushing tenderness of Catherine's love. He pays no regards for who he harms in his return to her arms. And though this love can be interpreted as destructive and cruel to an outsider, these fits of passion are the fuel, the very being of these lovers. Without their abusive yearnings and massive acts of revenge and jealousy, they would lose the very fire that keeps them going, that provides intrigue, lust, and deceit that they crave in a relationship. Though strange and mystifying, both Heathcliff and Catherine's love thrives in this tumultuous environment.

Perspective is what fuels this story: Lockwood's perspective on a strange new world, Nelly's interpretation of an everlasting drama, Heathcliff's confusion, sadness, and obsession with Catherine's life, and Catherine's self-indulgent and distorted vision of reality. All are tangled, unraveled, and tangled again as the story progresses. What is true? Does Catherine truly haunt Wuthering Heights? Is Heathcliff as dark and cruel as Nelly describes? Are the stories little Cathy tells of her travels to Wuthering Heights distorted by her fear of Heathcliff and her assumed duty to young Linton? Or is everything distorted through the foggy lens of reality?

This tale truly embodies an oncoming storm: bustling clouds roll over the hills, every shade of gray, some profusely blacker than others. The environment below becomes shadowed by the large clouds, each one carrying destructive drops of rain, each possessing potential to upset the world below. And while those below may perceive this ominous stampede as havoc, this presence is the clouds way of life, we'll say. It's what they do and have always done, and the environment or potential harm they may cause has no effect on the storm. These clouds are unaware, unconscious of what lies below, because after all, they're only clouds. It's all perspective. How could the land possibly understand the workings of a storm?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Oedipus Rex: Perspective vs. Truth

Oedipus Rex depicts a tale of a king, destined to fulfill a lifelong prophecy, ultimately shaming his reputation. He is blind to the truth, perceiving his "reality" through a distorted lens. But is it perspective that defines truth in this tale, or does the truth prove unwavering and certain?
Here's the facts: After receiving a prophecy that their child will marry his mother and kill his father, Oedipus' parents bind the infant's feet and send him off to die. However, through coincidental events, Oedipus unknowingly kills his father in a conflict among travelers and finds his way back to Thebes, then marrying his mother. The prophecy is fulfilled and the truth is exposed: he lives an incestuous and disgraceful life.
However, perception is a key element in this play. Before his immorality is exposed, Oedipus views himself as a strong ruler, priding himself on his leadership and dignity. Yet, he is blind to the truth. He perceives himself as all-knowing, viewing the world through his "outward eyes," however, Oedipus is utterly oblivious to the truth of the prophet, Tiresias', words as well as his own identity. Nothing is what it seems in this story. What one sees is merely how one perceives. Blindness of knowledge can be possible even when literal sight is present and the truth is hidden. After realizing this reality, Oedipus loses his vision of what he believes the world was. His perspective is altered and with it, his truth. Oedipus' sense of identity is defined by perspective. Due to his pride and nobility, his perception of himself is the utmost deciding variable of what he believes to be true. His ultimate downfall is not only due to his own disgrace in himself but also how his kingdom now perceives him. It's their judgement that ultimately cements his fate and confirms his humiliation. Perception has the ability to condemn individuals, shape realities, and distort views all with a renewed consciousness of the world.

How Does Perspective Shape or Alter Truth?

What one may interpret as the truth another might believe is an absurd assumption on reality. Perspective shapes how reality is translated into thoughts and view points. Culturally, individuals of different backgrounds, religions, and nationalities posses different ideas of truth, even if it's as simple as what one deems a good afternoon snack or an extraordinary genre of music. Personally, when I traveled to Thailand this summer I was amazed with how differently the locals thought and how it shaped their lifestyles. In the last days of the trip, I visited a rural community in the hills of Chang Mai where I was to do service. The village was virtually penniless. Houses were composed of mere metal slabs and soggy wood. Houses wore large holes on their sides and the water supply was both shy and erratic in it's behavior. Large, muddy hills were the only passages to squalid school buildings that were scattered along dangerous terrain, patched with disintegrating stairways. It was not an ideal living situation. And yet, these people possessed an overwhelming sense of happiness, kindness, and appreciation for simplicity. They possessed a positive perspective on life that granted them the gift to be thankful for every day and every helping hand willing to donate their time to their humble village. These people glowed with life. From an outsider's eye, living in this village for more than a week would seem unbearable, and yet these locals were perfectly content and satisfied in their modest surroundings. It's amazing how a multitude of perspectives flood our world, shaping minds and altering the truth of reality. Our minds are capable of conjuring every human emotion and thought that it's near impractical not to shape or alter the truth through perspective.

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter themselves by altering their attitudes of mind."
William James

In literature, perspective so largely shapes plot. Characters' downfalls are exposed through their perspectives. Or perhaps their ultimate superiority is exposed by the way they interpret reality into truth. In any manner, perspective is a defining trait that allows readers to dig deeper into the text and truly explore the complex ideas illustrated by the author. We must fully understand that "everything we see is a perspective, not the truth" (Marcus Aurelius), especially in literature.