General Vision & Viewpoint Sample Answer: Success or Failure of a Central Character – Part 2

General Vision & Viewpoint Sample Answer: Success or Failure of a Central Character – Part 2

General Vision and Viewpoint answer continued:

‘The general vision and viewpoint of a text can be determined by the success or failure of a central character in his/ her efforts to achieve fulfilment.’ In the light of the above statement, compare the general vision and viewpoint in the three texts you have studied on your comparative course.

As such individuals embark on their journeys they and their fellow characters will inevitably meet obstacles on the way to achieving fulfillment. The response to such situations reveals a bright or dark outlook which is determined by whether an individual is heartwarmingly willing to challenge problematic situations, if someone is depressingly not willing to do so, or if a character bleakly will attempt to change events but for immoral reasons (which thus suggests that their attempts for fulfilment are aligned with immorality).

There are both characters who face and challenge their problems as well as those who do not in INS, revealing a bright outlook on life as it shows that characters are not willing to let others unfairly control their lives and seek to have control over their existence, as well as a dark outlook as it shows characters who ignore their problems even when these need solving. This is seen in the situation near the beginning of the text involving Filippo’s capture, which comes about because of the divide between the rich and poor in Italy in 1978. As a result of the conflict between both groups the poor, with the help of a northerner living in Brazil, have kidnapped the ten-year-old son of a northern wealthy family, Filippo, so as to raise money to combat their difficult financial position. While sinister in its means, the motives display a willingness to challenge the unfair economic divide across the country. In contrast Filippo’s parents do little to get their son back; instead of doing all they can they refuse to pay the ransom for Filippo they stal by using televised messages to the kidnappers. Indeed, such is the unexpected length of time that they remain away from their son that Filippo believes he and his parents are dead, using the logic that if they were alive they would have rescued him. Such a belief, caused by the isolation between the boy and his parents, is deeply depressing as it shows how his parents will not do all they can to help their son, which they should as it is their parental duty, and shows they prioritise that which is obviously less important, such as monetary matters.

M contrasts from INS as while Macbeth similarly challenges obstacles he does so for immoral reasons as his quest for fulfilment is irreconcilably linked to wrongdoing. In the play characters challenge obstacles however this reveals a bleak outlook as this is done for selfish reasons that defy law and morals, which presents a world where characters do not care for others but rather are only preoccupied with self-serving interests. This is evidenced through the lack of respect for the king of Scotland; in the world of the play the king was God’s representative in the kingdom, divinely chosen to implement the natural order of things whereby all in the kingdom acting according to the king’s wishes and commands, which reflected those of God. However at the start of the play there is already opposition to the king’s rule by the traitorous thane of Cawdor; the king himself even realizes this, evidenced when he laments the ‘absolute trust’ he placed in the Thane of Cawdor and how he was deceived, declaring ‘There’s no art/ To find the mind’s construction in the face./ He was a gentleman on whom I built/ An absolute trust’. In this same scene Macbeth also shows his lack of devotion to the king as the witches have awoken his ambition and he now desires to be king; therefore, while he tells Duncan ‘our duties/ Are to your throne and state, children and servants,/ which do but what they should by doing everything/ safe toward your love and honor’ he is already considering how he can seize the crown. His concluding soliloquy, in which he declares ‘The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step/ On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,/ For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;/ Let not light see my black and deep desires’, indicates his thought process, as he also considers how to be rid of Malcolm, who Duncan has just announced as heir to his throne. Needless to say, Macbeth’s later act of regicide is further evidence of a lack of respect for the king in the play.

OMS diverges from the other texts. Santiago’s repeated confrontations with the sharks and the marlin can be read as challenges to authority as these take place in the oceanic realm where such fierce and large creatures are dominant forces. The description of Santiago’s traveling further out than normal indicates a realization that he is a world that is not his own and that he is a visitor here, as well as the presentation of the sea-creatures as belonging to this place; ‘The old man knew he was going far out and he left the smell of the land behind and rowed out in the clean early morning smell of the ocean. He saw the phosphorescence of the Gulf weed in the water as he rowed over the part of the ocean that the fishermen called the great well because there was a sudden deep of seven hundred fathoms where all sorts of fish congregated’. He also realizes the power of this place, indicated when he presents the sun as part of this place and remarks of its blinding rays, ‘All my life the early sun has hurt my eyes… In the evening I can look straight into it without getting the blackness. It has more force in the evening too. But in the morning it is painful.’ However, despite his realization that he is a visitor and respecting the power of this place, Santiago challenges the animals that dominate this setting, such as catching and refusing to free the large marlin which pulls his boat far out into the gulf, and his stabbing of the shark with the dagger that he fashions from his oar. The old man attempts to justify his challenge by declaring that everything is sinful and that killing is a natural way of life which  in part excuses his actions, despite not having any rights in this space; he therefore believes that he should not worry about his actions towards the beings that reside in this place, ‘Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish.. But then everything is a sin. Do not think about sin. It is much too late for that and there are people who paid to do it. Let them think about it… everything kills everything else in some way.’

The journeys that characters make do not only focus on problematic situations which they must face, but also introduce other central characters who are on similar journeys of fulfilment. This is achieved by a focus on various aspects of life such as the heightened state of animals, loyalty and the need to isolate one’s self from a childish view of life; much like the way a bright or bleak outlook was shown by the manner in which individuals dealt with problematic situations, the way in which characters approach these issues and either achieve or fail to recognise a sense of fulfilment creates a similar viewpoint.

M focuses on the concept of loyalty that reveals a depressing outlook as not even kings can inspire devotion from their subjects, which thus reveals the world of the play to be a place where one cannot trust even those who should be closest to them. Duncan is god’s representative on earth and the natural order of things ensures that all should respect and follow his rule, but the Thane of Cawdor and Macbeth are intent on seizing his position and when Macbeth becomes king the lack of devotion to this position becomes even more appearent. Macbeth may have some who follow his rule and obey his orders, such as the murderers who kill Banquo, but he does not have absolute rule. Throughout the play Macduff shows himself as openly opposed to the king, refusing to attend his coronation, causing Macbeth to remark to his wife ‘How say’st thou, that Macduff denies his person/ At our great bidding?’ Macduff and Malcolm later plan to overthrow the king, with Macduff later traveling to England to meet Malcolm and seek military assistance from King Edward of England. Later, as the play nears its end, it is revealed that many of Macbeth’s troops have abandoned him, and Angus remarks that even those who stay with him are not absolutely loyal: ‘Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;/ Those he commands move only in command,/ Nothing in love: now does he feel his title/ Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe/ Upon a dwarfish thief.’ As the battle commences many of the aforementioned soldiers fighting for Macbeth switch sides, leaving the king with little support as his castle is attacked and overcome, with Malcolm telling Siward that ‘We have met with foes/ That strike beside us’.

INS echoes M. The text focuses on the need to isolate one’s self from a childish view of life where all is viewed with wonder, and instead recognize and accept the harsher ways of the world. This reveals a dark outlook as it endorses the removal of an optimistic viewpoint and forces an individual to confront the painful parts of reality, when often a departure from such aspects is most beneficial. Initially Michele’s viewpoint of the world is one devoid from reality, where he is fascinated by supernatural elements such as wolves, witches and madness. This is evidenced in his perception of Filippo’s situation; while it is plainly obvious that Filippo is being kept kidnapped Michele can see nothing sinister about his fellow ten-year-old being chained in a hole by an abandoned farmhouse. Michele’s father will not tolerate his son living with such an alternative reality, especially when it leads to a disregarding of his father’s orders. He subsequently tells his son ‘Stop all this talk about monters… monsters don’t exist. It’s men you should be afraid of, not monsters’ and as the novel progresses Michele’s father prompts him to view life differently by focusing on the elements of his world rather than a space that is imagined. This is evidenced when Michele comes to realize Filippo is kidnapped and his father is involved when he hears the discussion of the men who decide ‘We have to eliminate the kid’ and ‘We’ll do what they do in the war to decide who goes on deadly missions, we pick a match’. Whereas earlier in the novel Michele would not consider the moral implications of this, now there is a more realistic and hardened view of the world as Michele now considers that his father might be a criminal; this is evidenced soon after when he hurries to Filippo and urges him to flee the hole, frantically warning him of the repercussions of not doing so, ‘Don’t you understand? If you stay they’ll shoot you!’.

OMS differs from the other texts as Santiago provides the animals with some sense of fulfilment through exaltment. The text focuses on the power and heightened state of animals, which creates a bright outlook as it attempts to elevate such creatures who are usually dismissed as inferior without any substantial regard for their state. Santiago feels an affinity to the creatures that live in the ocean and sees them as equals, as opposed to the conventional view that animals are inferior to humans (this enforces his belief that killing the marlin and attacking the shark is a natural part of life). He attempts to justify this view by comparing the strength of animals who fight even when injured to the great baseball player Joe DiMaggio who shows similar tolerance to pain, declaring ‘the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel’ is indicative of the fighting cocks can ‘endure.. the loss of the eye and of both eyes and continue to fight’, concluding that ‘Man is not much beside the great birds and beasts’. Elsewhere he establishes a fraternal link with various animals, suggesting that man and the animals are equal, and enforcing this by personifying the animals. This is seen in such instances as when he speaks of the porpoises and says ‘They play and make jokes and love one another. They are our brothers like the flying fish.’

A closing scene of a text will indicate whether a central character was successful in their quest for a state of fulfilment. If there is resolution and they achieve this then the outlook is bright as it suggests that such a journey is possible; however if there is not then a dark outlook will indicate that such journeys are futile.

There is a bright outlook at the end of M as it is suggested that Macduff and Malcom’s quest to return the divided kingdom of Scotland to a unified state is successful, where subjects follow the rule of the king who in turn will be suitable for caring for and controlling his subjects. Macbeth’s side loses the battle and Macduff arrives with Macbeth’s head in his hand, declaring to Malcolm that he is king of Scotland. Malcolm in response says all his thanes will become earls (acceding to the English system of peerage), the first time this had occurred in the history of Scotland that thus heralds the new order of rule. Malcolm also proves himself a suitable ruler for the future as he shows compassion for young Siward’s death, indicating that he has learned from Macduff earlier as he remarks to Siward ‘He’s worth more sorrow,/ And that I’ll spend for him’. As shown with the callous nature of Macbeth throughout the play, a good king must care for his subjects rather than corrupting and killing them in the manner Macbeth has, as this ensures that subjects will be loyal to their king. This will result in traits such as compassion, care, respect and loyalty being spread throughout the kingdom rather than corruption and deception, as was achieved when Macbeth had the criminals murder Banquo. There is also the indication that everyone will attend the coronation, as opposed to earlier with Macbeth’s; this presents the kingdom as unified, with Malcolm remarking ‘So thanks to all at once and to each one,/ Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone’.

INS is similar to M. The end of the text contains resolution as the divide that separates Michele and Filippo throughout the entire text is removed, which shows that one can achieve their goal regardless of how difficult this may seem. After Michele finds Filippo there is a connection between the two, seen in such moments as when Michele brings him food, water and tries to save Filippo, who tells the protagonist ‘I’m scared’, prompting Michele to tell him ‘No, you are not scared’, displaying his care for his new friend. However for much of the text they are constantly separated, as Filippo is trapped in the hole, and even when Michele saves him there is still separation as Michele is trapped in the hole as he cannot get out of the hole after he helps Filippo get out. There is a further obstacle, as Michele’s father tries to prevent Michele going to Filippo again, threatening to beat him if he does so. However despite this Michele goes to help him, and is almost killed in the process, as Michele’s father almost kills him by shooting him, even when Michele cries out ‘Papa! I didn’t know that it was you!’. But at the text’s end Michele survives the gunshot, and Filippo is saved as helicopters arrive, and for the first time in the novel the boys are not separated, showing that through effort and refusal to bow to obstacles that isolation can be overcome.

OMS matches INS and M. There is resolution at the text’s end as Manolin acts independent of his family’s wishes and reunites with Santiago; this decision is presented as a resolving of the text’s events as Santiago has proven himself to not be cursed with unluckiness. As was established earlier, Manolin’s family instructed him to keep a distance from Santiago due to his being unlucky, however at the text’s end the boy decides to resume their partnership, indicating that the family unit will not influence him, especially in such a misguided fashion. When Manolin declares ‘Now we will fish together again’ Santiago refers to the earlier order of Manolin’s parents by remarking that ‘No. I am not lucky. I am not lucky anymore.’ The boy then reveals how he is no longer bound by their demands and expectations, declaring ‘The hell with luck.. I’ll bring the luck with me’, which reveals how he will act as he sees fit. His comment also indicates that he will now have an independent mindset, which now will not be influenced by any other; usually a child will be affected by the opinion of their parent, and this break from convention is an emphatic statement of the decline of the role of the parent in the world of the text. While the breakdown of a parent-child relationship is usually considered in a depressing sense, this reveals a bright outlook as it results in misconceptions being removed.

As has been shown, the journey of central characters are inextricably linked to the outlook of life texts present, as these journeys are centered on achieving a state of fulfilment. The success of this journey will ultimately have the defining say on bright or dark outlook provided to the audience as the concluding scenes naturally resonate strongest. However various elements of the journey also provide alternative outlooks on life, such as why the journeys come about, the response of central characters to problems as they embark on their journeys, and other central characters’ attempts to achieve fulfilment who are met along the way; these elements should also be considered in the overall general vision and viewpoint of a text.

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About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
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