Master Document: Perspectives
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Cross-Class Collaboration Perspectives Document (this is the raw information everyone posted)

Here's the Power Point from CC's presentation on Perspectives:

Perspective and Point of ViewChaise Murphy, Christopher Bush, Katie Gurtis, Dayton Stange, Luke McLaughlinUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnENG 252

In Star of the Sea, Joseph O’Connor creates a complex, yet easy to follow text. He accomplishes this complexity by writing a book inside of a book, switching between forms of prose and employing a half dozen points of view. The reader remains safely in tow, following the somehow intriguing mystery where both the “murderer” and the “victim” are revealed at the beginning of the novel. How O’Connor crafts a mystery novel and creates suspense with the ending revealed deserves recognition and dissection. As Chaise wrote, “O’Connor’s craft offers invaluable insight into how to finely tune and craft an elegant, coherent work.”

O’Connor writes his collage of a murder mystery through half a dozen different perspectives. These varying perspectives lend to the overall mystery of the text, because the audience never receives a complete perspective from any character. Leaving the point of views incomplete draws the reader in by making them wonder what said character omitted. Sarah referenced “Robert Merridith said to his father: ‘I never said anything about the window to Mr. Mulvey. So how did he know?” as a point of particular suspense (359). She explained “at this point the reader is just waiting for the events to play out” and went on to compare O’Connor’s baiting strategy to the entirety of the book where the audience keeps waiting for Pius Mulvey to kill Lord Merridith.

Through writing multiple perspectives, O’Connor also successfully avoids taking a side in this conflict. Exposing struggles and flaws of Mulvey, Merridith and Dixon through brief snapshots allowed the reader to make their own determinations. As Luke wrote, “it’s amazing how the omniscient view contributes to both the reliability and the unreliability.” Usually the overarching perspective of a character, whether first or third person, provides stability in a novel, but it seems Dixon’s debatable personal interests only complicate the already incomplete picture the audience receives through his patchwork memoir. As Katie pointed out, this may be why Dixon quotes Merridith at the onset of the epilogue as saying, “History happens in the first person but is written in the third. This is what makes history a completely useless art” (375). The inseparability of Dixon and O’Connor comes through in Katie’s interpretation of the quote which reads, “[Dixon] was extolling the virtues of the first person struggle, much like O’Connor did in the larger work… the meaning of the novel comes not from a single perspective of who did right or wrong, but instead from how these individual perspectives can be united.” By writing this collaborative document, Dixon realizes that he provides the most complete perspective on what occurs on the ship.

O’Connor speaks to a holistic perspective when he promotes the virtues of Dixon’s collaborative, patchwork memoir. Christopher may have wrote it best when he said, “I felt like I was piecing together the remains of the ship: finding journal entries, diaries and documents… I was creating my own story out of it.” O’Connor emphasizes the journey in his novel, as evidenced by his foretelling of the murderer and the victim. When asked what drives the plot of this story—with the mystery already “solved” at the beginning—he wrote, “The momentum of the ship’s journey. Some of my favorite novels are stories about journeys… a journey always infuses a story with a kind of investment… we want to know at some fundamental level if the protagonist(s) ever make it to the destination.” The beauty of O’Connor’s story lies in the depth his characters receive; by attaching the audience to almost everyone, he makes the audience more involved than we would be with a single character. His lack of distinction between protagonists and antagonists entitles the audience to hope for the best for every character, driving the plot forward more quickly than it would with only one protagonist to cheer for.

PerspectivesLibby Anderson, Bryn Homuth, Killashandra Link, Marie VanderpanConcordia College, Moorhead, MNEng. 346

One of the main things that the Perspective group found to be significant was the way each of the perspectives of the characters added a new element to the plot. Dayton Stange from UNL states “the use of multiple points of view in Star of the Sea portrays many different forms of narrations and perspectives that effectively work on the reader in different aspects and contexts.” Furthermore, Bridget Vacha commented on the use of voice in these different perspectives creates: “Between chapters II and III, you get completely different perspectives; one from the English/Irish perspective (Merridith) and the American (Dixon). With these perspectives, the voice is completely different; not only in how the diction is used, but also the punctuation!”

This paragraph was taken from Jacy Marmaduke; she comments on O’Connor’s crafting of perspective and the effect it has on the reader: “The shifts in perspective heighten the tension of the story because just as the reader begins to slip into the mindset of one narrator, the perspective changes. O'Connor starts with a preface from the perspective of Dixon, the journalist. This choice is smart because, despite the public's occasional (unwarranted, in my opinion) distaste for journalists, we still inherently recognize their capacity for objective observation. O'Connor gives his preface a studied validity by opening with the insights of a journalist, and he gives his journalist validity by introducing him to the reader before any other character.”

Specifically, the Perspective group noticed the characterization of Mary, David, Pius, and the Captain as significantly impacted by the shifting perspectives. Each of these characters is portrayed differently in each perspective Dixon gives the reader. For example, the reader is given background information on Mary and Merridith through the chapter about their childhood. Katie Gurtis comments about this in one of her reflections: “[O’Connor] employs a variety of Gaelic words in the chapter from Mary’s perspective which reinforces the difference between her background, and Merridith’s. In their relationship, they have trouble understanding one another, both literally because of Merridith’s heavy accent, and also because of the environments in which they were raised. Mary and Meredith come from different countries, different educational backgrounds, different religious backgrounds, different financial means, and different attitudes about trust and love.”

The most reliable point of view throughout the novel (albeit not perfect) is that of Captain Josias Lockwood. While the chapters on Pius, Merridith, and Mary are told in a non-specific, memoir-like form, Captain Lockwood’s perspective is always in the form of his captain’s log. The log always begins with the number of casualties, then proceeds to give matter-of-fact anecdotes on the happenings aboard the ship. Dixon makes footnotes in very few of these entries, which is quite different from the other chapters, implying that the captain is a fairly reliable man whose perspective can certainly be trusted by readers. Another point that should be noted about the captain’s entries is that they hold a continuous pattern. Rather than express feelings about situations and not go in a specific order, the captain has a “laundry list” of sorts that needs to be completed in each entry. In addition to location, weather, and date, he must record the casualties on board and events that have occurred since his last entry. This further cements his reliability, knowing that unlike the others, he has no hidden agenda. The captain is simply doing his job.

This idea of perspective is a very complex web that O’Connor has created in this novel. There is a framework that is used to set the story in place. Working from inside-out, the reader can see this web and the different ties and twists it gives for both the characters within the novel, the writer, the author, and the reader. The whole story, as we find out in the end, is written by Grantley Dixon which we therefore understand is coming from what he sees and hears aboard the ship. All that we read and know is filtered through this character and his knowledge or lack thereof that he gives us. He is in control of what is written down, translated or transformed, and withheld from the reader. We understand how in control and important this character is because as Jacy Marmaduke explains, “O’Connor gives his preface a studied validity by opening with the insights of a journalist, and he gives his journalist validity by introducing him to the reader before any other character….it also establishes Dixon as a familiar voice and perhaps one to be trusted.” Dixon is given this power from O’Connor to change and alter the story as he sees fit which we can see throughout the novel with the long footnotes he leaves for the reader at the bottom of the page.

So while the novel is read the audience is informed that Dixon is in charge but there is yet another person who is the overseer of the whole story ultimately, Joseph O’Connor. He is in charge of what Dixon says and does. He is in charge of Grantely Dixon’s character. He is able to use his skill of perspective to expertly achieve such a novel that is as complex as Star of the Sea. Bridget Vacha writes that “One thing I learned from O’Connor is that perspective can be done well. While it can create an omniscient appearance to the story, it also can affect the reliability.” O’Connor understands that what he does to his characters affects the ways we see and react to them. Libby Anderson writes, “Being a person who loves character development via back stories, these perspectives were full of things for me to think about. It gave me new insights into characters’ motives, values, and goals, but it also did a find job of using this new knowledge to blur the plot line that is constantly different.”

Star of the Sea features a variety of mediums by which the story is communicated to the reader. As much of the chapters are portrayed as sources uncovered by Dixon, we’re given the opportunity to see through many lenses on the perspective spectrum. From the close, first-person accounts of letters to the fictional, limited omniscience of Dixon, O’Connor gives a tug and pull that keeps a reader on constant edge.

One of the best examples of the first person perspective comes in the form of Captain Lockwood’s log. As discussed before, these chapters generate a much different reaction in a reader, as they’re much more a listing than a weave of narrative. In this first person, the use of present-tense verbs, direct thoughts, and real-time events allow heightened empathy to pass from reader into the text, drawing us closer. The same is true of the letter form, and often O’Connor carefully organizes the way these play out through the course of the story. For example, the first time we’re introduced to Nicholas Mulvey, it’s through a letter, which naturally draws us to the character and creates speculation when he’s later described from Pius’ perspective. Other characters are introduced first through a tainted lens, most notably Pius as ‘The Monster’ in the opening of the novel. This creates much more skepticism when we’re later asked to empathize with Pius, especially in scenes where he’s being humiliated or beaten.