In the Sophomore CT course, the issue of point of view comes up a great deal as a factor in shaping the way we think. We read a number of texts - like Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" and Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible" - which show writers using shifts in point of view as a primary investigative strategy.
In this exercise, students were divided into groups of three. Each student was asked given seven minutes in which to write a draft of a third-person narrative which involved three characters. At the end of seven minutes, the writer passed his paper to the group member to the left, who then had seven minutes to re-cast the narrative as a first-person narrative from the point of view of one of the characters in the story. After another seven minutes, the students again passed the paper to the left, and each student then had to write another version of the story, this time from the point of view of one of the other characters. Finally, the papers were passed again, back to the author of the original narrative, who had to finish off the cycle by writing the story as a first-person narrative from the point of view of the third character.
The homework assignment was for each student to take his/her completed set of drafts home, edit them in whatever ways seemed appropriate to achieve clarity and balance, and then type up the completed cycle of narratives. They were given the option of including or not including the original third-person draft. Here are several of the papers which resulted.
The Tennis Ball
There once lived three young monkeys named Jeff, Zakus, and Nickel (two boys and a girl). They never agreed upon anything. For this very reason there was a strong bond that brought them together. Though they loved to challenge one another; they all hated to lose.
One day, in the small town of Bananasville they were strolling through the sunset and came across a tennis ball. In the town of Bananasville, anything that was yellow would catch the eye of a monkey who lived there. This worked both for them and against them because their main source of nutrients came from fruits that were yellow or partially yellow.
"Look Zakus, there is a tennis ball in the lake!"
"Jeff, you go after it."
"I know, maybe Nickel would care to take a swim for us. How 'bout it, Nicky?'"
"You have to be crazy! I can't get my hair wet today. I just got it permed three hours ago and the groomer told me to not get my fur wet for 24 hours."
"Well," said Zakus, "maybe we could flip a coin and see who gets to get it."
"Sounds like a plan." Said Jeff
Well, you know that the outcome of this is a large fight. Neither agreed to jump in to get the ball after the coin was flipped ten times. The outcome never pleased the person who lost, and he would complain that they were cheating. Soon after, fists started to fly.
Jeff, Nickel, and I were strolling through the Bananasville Park today when one of my idiot friends turns to me to bother me about a damn tennis ball. Who the hell cares about a tennis ball? But, OHHHHHH, it's yellow! I must have that ball. It will give me a lot of bragging rights when we go back to school. All of the little children would want to play with it and I will say, "NO, because it is my tennis ball and I found it!"
I have an idea! How about I attempt to convince Nicky to get the ball for us? If I can make her get the ball, then I know I can beat her up enough so she gives me the ball. "How 'bout it Nicky?"
I can't believe this! I am infuriated. Now it brings it down to the two of us. Just when I was lost for words, an idea came into my mind again. Jeez, I must be the smartest of us three. I know Nickel is a ditz and Jeff is all brawn and no brains. "Well, maybe we could flip a coin to see who gets to get it." After 10 attempts to determine the loser, I am the winner! Jeff is the Big Fat Loser!
Whoa, he looked pissed off. Here comes the punch; a swing and a miss. I punch him back, but he counters with a swift hook to my jaw. This went on for what seemed like hours. I barely remember a thing except that Nickel was screaming her head off and clawing at us both to get us separated. I also remember that I punched Nickel in the face pretty hard in retaliation.
Now, I lay in the hospital ward along side Jeff and we still don't have the tennis ball. This is my story and I suggest that you don't listen to the liar lying in the other bed.
The reason why I am lying on my back in this hospital bed is because of that stupid argument today. It started as a simple problem with a simple solution, but it got out of control. I was walking through the park with the two guy friends, Jeff and Zakus, when Jeff noticed a tennis ball in the lake nearby. The ball was caught in some cattails not far from shore. They asked me to retrieve the ball for them, but my only answer was simply no. Why should I care much about a ball? As far as I can see, those are the most immature boys in the whole town, and are known for fighting whenever they get the chance. We always get into arguments, but very seldom do they get out of control. Today, just happened to be one of those days.
My only reason not to get that stupid ball today was because I couldn't get my hair wet. You are not supposed to get your hair wet within 24 hours of a perm. Just so happens that three hours before this whole incident happened, I permed my hair. We all know that you can't settle an argument with a coin toss (well, obviously not all of us know that). One thing led to another and before I knew it they were rolling around in the grass and punching each other. I should have gotten the ball and not given it back to them.
Monkey business ended up in a fight. I said to myself, "I can't allow this to happen," so I intervened. This had to be one of the dumbest things that I did in my life. I got caught in the whirlwind of a fight of my two best guy friends. Jeff was slugging Zakus and I happened to be in his way. I screamed at the top of my lungs to both of them, "Stop it right now! You're both acting like animals out of control. Both of you should be ashamed of yourselves."
Everything after that was a blur. Yes, I saw stars, perhaps a dozen moons too. I woke up with a splitting headache and asked where I was. My fur was kinky and coarse. I must have fallen into the lake. The nurse was kind and told me that I was in Bananasville Hospital and that I had a concussion.
Why did they have to have that tennis ball?
It was late afternoon and Nickel called Zakus and I to walk in the park with her to watch the sunset. I love being outdoors and for once, agreed to it. I got excited when Zakus, the smart-ass, spotted a yellow tennis ball a distance away in the lake. As we all walked closer, Smarty Pants realized that we couldn't reach it even with our long arms.
We thought of possible ways to determine who would jump in to get it. Zakus gave me a smart-ass answer suggesting that we flip a coin so that the loser would retrieve it for us. Zakus lost the coin toss and besides that, we couldn't get Nickel to jump in for us. Zakus is such a poor loser and can't take losing. He tried to cheat me by miscounting the amount of flips of the coin. I told my friends, aiming the discussion at Zakus, "You should be the one to get it since you are the smallest and smartest of the group. You can figure out a way to get it."
Besides, Nicky was insulted when Zakus suggested that she go in for the tennis ball. I wanted to keep her looking appealing, hoping that I could spend some time with her after our event. Nicky was a friend for a long time and I thought that I could impress her with my muscular body. Mating season was weeks away and I thought that our offspring could be the strongest, fastest, and toughest of all monkey-kind.
I thought that I would never lose and since Nicky was with us, we would be gentlemen and wouldn't compete in games such as a wrestling match, swing the fastest on tree branches, or climb the highest tree with speed just to determine who would go after the ball. I knew that I would win anyway since Zakus is such a mouse.
"I won!" I boasted.
Zakus wouldn't let me and cried, "I won!", and so I swung for his face.
In defense he dodged my throw and swung back. I countered his miss by a swift hook to his jaw. It was pretty close for the first few minutes. As I said before, he has no muscles on his puny, little body. I remember him getting me a good one down low and I fell to the ground in pain. He jumped on me and started clawing at my face. I swung wildly and connected with someone else. It only took a few times before he went down. I was covered from head to tow with my blood from my bloody nose. I also had some red blood belonging to him on my handsome fur. Nicky was out cold, lying on the ground of yellow leaves. Next time I had a chance to think, I heard screaming sirens and the three at us being came away an stretchers to Bananasville Hospital.
In the hospital Nicky was placed between Zakus and me in the same ward. He appeared to be hurting more than me. I thought about how I could get out of here to get that tennis ball. I have to have it! Don't listen to Zakus. He is a liar and will make up some story. He thinks he is never wrong, but today I proved him wrong.
Michelle and Nilorac were running around with water bottles,
splashing water at each other and screaming, which probably explains
why they were all wet. They ran to the water fountains and filled
their water when the bottles were empty. They didn't even stop
splashing each other while refilling, they just kept on going,
waiting a few seconds for the water to fill up just enough so that it
would be enough water to get each other just a little more wet. They
laughed and screamed when they hit each other.
Anton waved when he passed; they decided that they would get him all wet too, just for fun. He was a friend, and they figured he wouldn't mind. They ran up to him, and Nilorac poured a little water onto his neck, while he wasn't looking. He looked very surprised. and his expression was not of amusement. "I don't think he took that well." said Nilorac. "Guess not," said Michelle.
Well, it all happened one day at my school, Punahou. My friend Michelle and I were messing around, throwing water all over each other and having a grand time. We would run to the water fountains and fill up our water bottles before throwing the water at the other person... Its of fun! We wouldn't even wait until the water bottles were completely filled. we would just continue splashing as much as possible.
Well. as it happened, another of my friends named Anton walked by in his hot pink shirt as he waved and smiled as he walked by.
Well, since we tend to be a little mischievous Mich and I decided to get him all wet too... we figured he couldn't get too mad.
So I waited until he wasn't looking and I poured a little water down his neck; it wasn't very much! Well, Anton turned slowly around and gave us a look of total surprise and it was completely devoid of amusement.
We took off before he could say anything I said, "I don't think he took that well."
And we scampered off into the distance.
Nilorac and I were splashing each other with water bottles. I was soaked from head to foot; water trickled from my hair, and they formed small rivers over my face. They looked like waterways forced into the Sahara desert. Anthony was passing by, so he stopped to ask what was going on. Nilorac and I just looked at each other, as if telepathically arguing that it was time for him to get a little action. So we dumped the water on the poor boy; as it trickled from his face his white skin turned bright red. If we weren't girls, he would have slapped us (or something).
We both decided to run away, but he wasn't going to let us escape so easily. He took the water hose from us and really soaked us. Just there, the infamous Mr. Hata shut off the water and dragged the lad to the Alexander office. Demerits!
I heard them screaming before I even turned around the corner. I saw water splashing on the ground. I saw her and another girl, I think her name was Michelle, having a water fight, running around and laughing. We waved at each other, and I continued on my way to the library.
I stopped to talk to a friend on the way. All of a sudden, I felt cold water being splashed onto my neck and running down my back. I was so shocked I couldn't even say anything. I just turned around and faced them, just before they turned and ran away.
I hate getting wet, and she knows it too. I was wearing my favorite shirt, the bright pink one that I got in Hilo, that says: "Cafe 100" on it and has a picture of a loco moco on the front. Now I had to go change into a new shirt, and waste time that l could have been using to study in the library. Why did she have to do that?? It just doesn't make sense to me. It was totally not necessary.
A young man walked into a small cafe in Boston. The cafe was old and a little dingy, but well-known for serving local students good food and drink. The young man, however, was not a student; he looked fresh out of college, and in the midafternoon light appeared a fresh-faced white-collar worker from one of the nearby offices. His corporate nametag identified him as a mid-level accountant named Matthew Feld.
The woman behind the counter eyed him with mild displeasure; she was a young American Indian, and found her fellow students to be better company than the occasional paperpusher who wandered in. She frowned for a moment - the briefest flicker - and put on her "customer face".
"Good afternoon, sir," she said cheerily as he approached the counter. "How may I help you?"
He smiled at her and examined the deli case for a few seconds before he replied; he examined her for a nametag, and found that it bore the oddly juxtaposed first name of Jennifer and family name of Walker-with-Wolves.
"Well, - Jennifer? - I'd like a pastrami sandwich and a cup of coffee," he said with the same pleasant smile.
I watched him enter our humble but comfortable little cafe and look around. He was young, but not young enough to still be in school, so I figured he must have recently graduated from college. I decided he was a young businessman, and business people are always more trouble than the students who simply come in and order what they always order, and sit where they always sit, and try to do homework.
When he came closer, I saw that his nametag said that his name was Matthew, and he was an accountant. I can't understand why anyone would want to sit around and do math all day.
"Good afternoon, sir, how may I help you?" I put on the best fake smile. I saw him quickly look at my nametag in between looking at sandwiches. He used my name in his reply. When customers use your name while ordering, they're usually the type who like small talk. I'm not a very outgoing person and I don't like to small talk with accountants. I gave him his order with a short "Thank you" and went on my break.
I stepped into the dingy cafe. It reeked of smoke, but I'd heard it served good food. I looked around at the few people in the tiny hole in the wall before approaching the counter. The young woman at the counter was pretty enough, and I decided that I'd stay and have lunch despite the fact that I was well aware I didn't fit in at all.
I saw the girl make a little moue as she glanced at me, before turning on me with a somewhat artificial smile.
"Good afternoon, sir." The smile faded a little as she spoke "How may I help you?"
Her voice was musical and light, but sounded forced . . . everything about her seemed forced, but I smiled at her and pretended to look for a nametag as I checked out the rest of her. Not bad. I finally checked her nametag and found that her name was 'Jennifer Walker-withWolves."
Who would give their child such a torturous name? It depressed me. Not only did she have a bizarre and inane last name, but she had a stupid, boring first. Oh well.
Oops. She was looking at me expectantly.
"Well, Jennifer, I'd like a pastrami sandwich and a cup of coffee."
I watched their discourse as I did every day; I, an ex-teacher, retired into obscurity and now coexisting with students I do not teach in a small, ill-lit cafe on the seedier side of Boston.
The discourse of students is only mildly interesting in general, but can occasionally be stimulating intellectual fare; I enjoy the sense of being needed when they ask me their questions. Today, however, I was mostly engaged in watching the occasional non-regular customers and their interaction with the waitress, Jennifer Walker-with-Wolves. Today, a shorn accountant came in and requested a pastrami sandwich and coffee; his order, however, was far less interesting than his manner. He was initially cold, formal, nervous as he came in; he looked around with a good bit of trepidation. I don't know what he was concerned about, but he was certainly very concerned about it; however, as he saw Jennifer, quite an attractive gal in anyone's book, his entire personality seemed to change gears. He became immediately friendly, and his physical demeanor melted into a nonaggressive, generally 'happy' pose as he checked Jennifer out on the apparent pretense of looking for a nametag. I wondered how much practice he had had at this; the action seemed completely natural for him, and if I hadn't been looking directly at him, I would never in a million years have caught it. It's amusing, really, how Jennifer is so friendly to the newcomers and brusque with the regulars; I guess it's just her way of showing affection.