Friday, October 28, 2011

English Passengers... and Perspective

I've just finished the book, English Passengers, which I know I've spoken of a few times already-- so please forgive me if I speak of it once more. Sometimes this is just what happens when I spend several days reading a book. I've been fairly busy lately, so the reading of this one took a lot longer than the books I'd read just previously. Also, this copy had really small print! I remember commenting to myself, upon opening the book initially, on how small said print was.  But, my eyes must have adjusted over the two weeks it was in my hands. I just opened my next book tonight, with less teensy print, and the font looked huge!!


The story was pretty interesting. It began with a Manx brandy-smuggling sea captain who had to take on charter passengers to avoid getting caught by the British customs agents-- passengers who were apparently intent on travelling to Tasmania to find the Garden of Eden (don't ask). At the same time, the story backtracks 30 years and, through the story of one half-caste boy, chronicles the history of the Tasmanian aborigines following the British occupation of the area.

The writing style of the book was different, rarely staying with one character for more than about eight pages. It took a little bit of getting used to, this constant change of first person narrative. But, eventually, I came to really enjoy it. Most especially, I liked the full picture that emerged when you melded all the perspectives together.

You would start with an understanding of a certain character.  Then, the narrator would switch and, as you saw that character through another's eyes, your understanding of the character would change. By combining them all, you got a fuller understanding of character, events, and story. But, it was clear that each narrator viewed the story from his own flawed and biased perspective.

Personal Thoughts

I have always (well, if not always, then "attempt at quite often") approached personal conflict with the belief that there are few relational conflicts which can be blamed solely on one party. We like to paint ourselves as victims when we feel put-upon. But, I find that, most of the time, responsibility falls, perhaps to varying degrees, on the shoulders of each member involved. I'm sure exceptions exist, as they usually do-- but in general, this is my belief. I suppose it keeps me honest- in both directions. I can neither excuse my own blame nor take it all on myself, as is often my instinct. It takes two to make a relationship, but it often takes two to break it as well.

Reading the varying perspectives of English Passengers refocused my thoughts on this idea. No one ever had an accurate picture of how things really were-- they only had their own flawed viewpoint, based on their experiences, their feelings and, most especially, their assumptions. I suppose it just made me newly aware to be careful in my own analysis of what truth is. I need to be cognizant of the idea that we are biased, and that those biases and assumptions color how we see things, and that often what I take for truth is little more than merely my own flawed perspective.

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