Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Who the hell are we supposed to believe, then?

So I was actually surprised at the class discussion of School for Hawaiian Girls today in class. As we launched into full deliberation as to which characters should be considered credible throughout the novel and who’s opinion we should believe, I questioned how much of that was worth our discussion. There were only fragments of the book that could be classified as truth versus fault based on who is interpreting the situation. I was reassured when the discussion traveled onto the topic of pronounced and exaggerated memories, because I feel that is the direction that the conversation should have followed. Characters like Sam, Bernie, and Sarah exaggerate the truth and manipulate it slightly in their own favor, but I felt there was a single line the memories followed that made the text appear to allow credibility in every interpretation. I felt the memories were given from different perspectives about the same event.

There is always room for interpretation in the struggle to find truth in a novel. I never seemed to question the truth of the characters’ actions but rather the reasons behind them and the effects they had on the novel. One such instance is when Sam murdered Danny. The first time the reader learns of the confrontation in the back of the general store, he/she envisions Sam on top of the bound Danny with a knife to his throat threatening a slow torture. Sam is held up by the storeowner at gunpoint and reasoned with. The next time we read through that scene it is from an outsider’s perspective that sees Reverend Christian break into the room and throw Sam from his son and demands that everyone go home. The differences are subtle between perspectives and exaggerations, but the scene is still the same. We then learn that Sam finds Danny in a hotel and seriously injure him, which eventually leads to Danny’s death. These extreme situations are up to the reader to believe how extreme they actually were, but there are serious threats behind them and I feel that they should be considered truthful.

A passage like this should be read under scrutiny, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason to not believe that they happened. They were merely exaggerated based on the perspective that the text was placed in.

On the other hand, I will agree with the line of questioning that occurred in class discussion about the scene in which Lydia was found. There does seem to be a discrepancy in the writing about the placement of Sam and Bernie at the murder site with Lydia. At first, we read that Sam stayed with the body, dragged it away from the road, straightened the body, and picked up the bloodied rags the body had on. In fact, it seemed as though Sam was the only one to stay with the body the night it was discovered even after suggested to leave it alone. But then in a chapter located later in the novel, Bernie is the person that stayed with Lydia and dragged her body off the road. It was also suggested that Sam stay with Bernie and the body.

The scene is the same, Lydia’s body was dragged away from the road and the evidence was tampered with, but there is that discrepancy of who did it. The novel seems to read through a specific sequence of events that can be clarified through the memories of the multiple narrators, but who is it that the reader believes. The reader should read the events as truths since there are certain facts that indicate that they happened, but it is the exaggeration of characters that causes the reader to question.

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