One of my favorite movies is Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. If you haven’t seen it, please do. I don’t want to ruin this piece of art for any of you . . . So I’ll just say, that without any disrespect meant to the great Japanese director, I’d posit that the main gist of the tale is a he-said she-said situation: a horrible event happens and we see it through four POVs. Some tellers of the story are deeply invested in their version of the events, others less so. But each iteration of the story is believable and therein resides one of the beauties of this cinematic study . . . .
I think I enjoyed Rashomon more than many of my college classmates when I first saw it because I’d already learned that messing with POVs could be fun. When I was in high school, I had a class where I wrote an impassioned paper about why arranged marriage was a stupid idea. I finished the assignment early and the teacher offered me extra credit to write an entirely new paper from the opposite POV. I did. And I loved throwing myself wholeheartedly into the different argument, finding its nuances and defending them as strongly as I’d done the first time round.
It was a good lesson in seeing the world from someone else’s perspective . . .
We all know Dorothy’s Midwestern school-girl take on Oz and we’ve gotten a different perspective in Wicked. But dow did the munchkins perceive this witch-killing giant with the flying house and motley crew of associates?
What would the story have been like if we’d known the true motivation behind the wolf’s attack in the Three Pigs? Maybe his long-time lover had left him and he had a death wish? Maybe those three pigs weren’t the angels we’re lead to believe . . . perhaps they were hoodlums, graffiti artists that had destroyed a bucolic mural the wolf had created the day before the unveiling.
What would Mrs. Rochester have to say about her life with Rochester in the West Indies? About his betrayal with Jane Eyre? About having to spend her life cooped up in a joyless room with the surly, coarse and frightening Grace Pool? Apparently, Jean Rhys has done it!
What was Helen’s perspective on the Trojan War and why it was really fought?
What would Mrs. Hudson’s story be about her upstairs tenant and his constant companion? Would she speculate about Sherlock Holmes’ sexuality? Would she kvetch about his messiness?
You get the idea.
Today, rather than a question, I’d like to loosen up our collective creativity, get it flowing for the new week. Are you up for it?
Task: Take a favorite story/narrative and give us another character’s POV. Let’s have fun with this!
I've always wanted to read the Maltese Falcon from the POV of Effie Perine, Spade's secretary. I've often imagined it.
She knows exactly who and what he is – better than anyone, I'd guess – but stays anyway and runs when he beckons . . . why? Is she in love with him? Does she pity him? Admire him? Is he all she has? Does she suspect that she's all he really has?
What's her self-esteem level/ How did she come to work for him – was she Archer's ex-partner's daughter?
Questions, questions . . . This is fun!
What a wonderful idea! There are all of these incredibly competent women — smart and sustaining — who appear in classic mysteries. I love the idea of knowing Effie's story, her beginnings and motivations to stick with Spade. I always assumed she was in love with him. But, what if she'd made a promise to her father or had secret ambitions of learning the biz to open her own agency?
Questions, questions . . . you're right.
SarahW: you should totally write that. Effie's a pretty good detective herself, as she reveals when she notes that Iva's "clothes were on the chair where she dumped them, hat and coat underneath. The slip on top was still warm. She’d wrinkled up the bed, but the wrinkles weren’t mashed down."
"Rattle brained little angel" indeed.
I love Christopher Moore's FOOL, which is King Lear told from the perspective of the Fool, who's full of surprises.
George Orwell did his take on the Three Little Pigs. So to speak.
Then there's Tom Stoppard's play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
I wouldn't mind seeing Richard Nixon's POV on Watergate.
Great blog today, Pari!
Mrs. Danvers from REBECCA!
I agree that Sarah should go for it! And I'll have to check out FOOL. It sounds marvelous.
Of all the ones you mention, I think that Nixon perspective would be mighty dark . . . and creepily fascinating. I was in France when Watergate hit and the French perspective on us silly naive Americans was very interesting indeed.
Great idea. Do you want to write it?
Oh! Talk about a scary proposition. I don't know if I'd actually like to write it, to tell you the truth. The idea appeals to me, but ideas abound. However, that said, it's an idea worth mulling over, over time, to see if it reaches a creative critical mass.
Infatuated as I am with CHINATOWN, which in classic PI format we see solely through Jake's eyes, I can imagine an extended exercise of seeing the events from each POV:
Lt. Escobar convinced he's looking at his cocky but judgment-challenged former colleague heading off the deep end of his own lousy choices, a shakedown followed by extortion followed by a senseless killing that just prove Jake was right all along. If so, where does that leave me?
Duffy and Walsh wondering what the boss is up to, and except for the damage to his nose, why does he care? What's it gonna prove? And look where it ends?
Evelyn Mulwray tiptoeing from one deceit or half-truth to the next, suing Jake for "exposing" Hollis, then needing Jake as an ally once Hollis dies. Not knowing how much to trust the PI, sensing he wants to know too much and might endanger Katherine, but being called to his side when he's been beaten senseless by the family of valley farmers, sensing his bravery and his integrity and his intelligence in unraveling the land grab scheme, watching him inflict a beating on Mulvihill at the Albacore and getting shot at for the privilege. Making love to him and wondering who is he, can he really be trusted, then getting the call that Katherine has seen the article about Hollis' death — I was hoping to keep it from her for the time being, knowing how distraught she'd be. As I tell Jake what I think he'll believe, he tells me he's met with my father — and that he's been hired to find Katherine. I try to tell him just how crazy, how dangerous a man my father is — but of course, my father claims I'm the crazy one. I hurry to katherine only to learn Jake followed me — he still thinks she's Hollis' girlfriend, and intends to call the police because he thinks I'm holding her against her will. More lies — I tell him that my string of infidelities pushed her and Hollis together, but he shouldn't be judged harshly. I drove him to it, and he was the gentlest, most decent man imaginable. I try to get Jake to come back to the house — I care about him, but also fear him, and want to keep him near. But I've destroyed his trust. I need to sneak away, get Katherine away, but Jake returns before I can — his vicious questioning, reducing me to finally admitting the truth. Only to find him sympathetic. Caring. He decides to help. I agree. We're to meet in Chinatown — but he's no match for my father in the end. Of course. The police are there but only to do my father's bidding. It's all on me now. I have to get Katherine away to safety. I will never let her know who her real father is. I would rather die.
If I wasn't on deadline I'd run down the story from Noah Cross' POV. Maybe someone else would like to pick up the torch? How do you think he feels seeing his daughter's eye blown out, and knowing Katherine will never lose that image from her memory. Oh, right, sorry — forgot. "I don't blame myself…"
I have all kinds of ideas that don't hold water after a certain amount of serious thought. Still . . . it's fun to explore the possibilities, isn't it?
Oh, man, I can't imagine what your comment would have been if you *weren't* on deadline. Every POV sounds fascinating. Makes me want to delve into CHINATOWN all over again. thank you!
You're such a great writer Pari. I'm happy just by reading the exchange of ideas by those who commented on this post. Thanks David for sharing to us that wonderful story of yours!
I'd like to get Milo Sturgis' take on Alex Delaware, and I'd love to see Meyer has to say about Travis McGee.
Yasmine Galenorn's "Sisters of the Otherworld" series is told from three different sisters' points of view, one per book, and it's interesting how they perceive each other, which is different from how each sees herself.
And Joshilyn Jackson's upcoming book is told from three different points of view, one of whom is fogged by a stroke. It's an amazing piece of writing, I think.
Point of view is so varied; I love it!
Pari, I have been thinking about this all day, and I can't think of anything. I have no idea, and it's leaving me wondering how I read. Maybe I just love to hear it, read it. I give over to the story when I read and try to understand what the writer is saying. i never try to figure out who dunnit or did they really. I'm curious, but I'm content to discover. I just let the story unfold. My mind just follows. that's why I like fiction. I think that makes me sound shallow. Non-fiction is so much work. It's nice to relax for a change.
I would have loved to have seen Spencer from Hawk's POV in the Robert B Parker books.
Or what about Insp Lestrade's view of Holmes and Watson?
I just have to point out:
Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith's picture books. They are all a little sideways.
What a lovely thing to say. Thank you!
I think I'm going to have to read those books. Especially the second one — with the stroke victim. It sounds so difficult to write effectively and if you say it's good, I've got to check it out!
I don't think that's shallow at all. Imagining stories from different angles is just a fun exercise for those who enjoy it — c'est tout.
Wow, Zoë . . . I'd love to see that too. I always enjoyed the interchange between the two and Hawk's language would have been such a kick to read. Great idea.
Thank you for pointing this out. I hadn't seen this particular version. Turns out I might not be as creative as I thought <g>.