By Anthony Casperson
If you get much into the mechanics of storytelling, you’ll come to see that there is great importance in the decision of who’s perspective is taken. Do you stay only with one character? Or do you jump around from character to character? Do you have an all-knowing narrator outside of the story? Or is the perspective of the character you’re following skewing the actual facts of what is happening?
If you take an omniscient narrator perspective, the audience is able to trust everything implicitly because the narrator doesn’t have any prejudices misreading the truth. But if you have an unreliable perspective character, you have all of their baggage involved. You’re getting their interpretation of the story, even if it’s not 100% the truth of the matter.
Take for instance the difference between the narrator of The Hobbit, versus the many fallible narrators in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (and I’m talking about the books here, hence the reason I didn’t call it Game of Thrones). In The Hobbit, the narrator (who canonically is Bilbo Baggins writing many years later) has an overarching knowledge of what’s going on in the story. When he gives you facts, they are largely taken for granted to be the truth. (Even when later editions show a different interaction between Bilbo and Gollum.)
On the other hand, in A Song of Ice and Fire, every chapter changes the perspective character. The events follow only their eyes. Many moments happen “off-screen” because the character who’s chapter it is doesn’t have access to certain areas. And a split-second of misdirection can lead to inaccuracies in their interpretation. And often, their prejudices can lead the characters to jump to conclusions that are discovered by the audience to be the wrong ones when another character later shows a different perspective of the same thing.
Perspective is important. The direction that we look at a specific event, item, or person greatly affects our feelings about them. We cheer for Bilbo when he escapes Gollum’s clutches with the One Ring because we see the hobbit as the hero of the story (and some of us know the end result of the One Ring coming into the hands of the Bagginses).
But how does this moment look to Gollum? Some little dude comes into Gollum’s home, demands a favor of him, and cheats at a game of riddles to get his own way. And that cheating comes about because the little dude found something that belonged to Gollum, and instead of returning the property like any good person should, he runs off with it. The ring was stolen from Gollum by someone who broke into his house and flaunted the theft in front of him. Gollum: victim of home invasion.
Perspective is important.
Unfortunately, we humans don’t have the ability to be omniscient narrators of our own stories. We are flawed, unreliable narrators of a story that we wrongfully think is about us because we are the character from whose perspective the story is told.
We need to remember that there are other people who have their own perspective and our actions can be read very differently by them. The “jerk-face” who cut us off in traffic and then sped off might be trying to save the life of their friend who’s bleeding to death in the back seat. I know this example might be a bit exaggerated, but it still proves a point.
We can negatively view a person because of an action that is done with a motivation entirely outside of our understanding. The fact that we don’t know everything about a situation can make us interpret things very differently than the truth. There is the truth of an event, but how we read it can be very skewed based off of our perspective of the situation.
We need to remember that there are always other perspectives out there and ours might not be the right one. So it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt to a situation when you don’t know everything involved (which is always because we’re not all-knowing).
And this is true not only for our interactions with people, but also with God. He is omniscient, but not the narrator of our stories. He is the main character, but not the perspective from which the story is told.
Sometimes we look at what it is that God’s doing in our lives and we argue, complain, and make a mess out of everything trying to get our own way. But we’re not seeing things from God’s perspective. He knows what it is that we need, even if it’s not obvious.
How many people have been “the one person” who could help another because we had been in a similar situation before? How many times have our broken hearts been softened only to find a person desperately in need of compassion?
When we receive such care, we rejoice because God is showing his favor to us. But what led to that person to allow God to use them to help us? It was God leading their lives just as he leads ours to become more like him.
God has this master plan where his story, told through his creation, culminates in the ultimate glory of him. And he wants to share it with us. We need to let him work in our lives for our own betterment and his glory, but it’s difficult when our limited perspective keeps us from trusting the all-knowing hero of the story.
We need to stop letting our limited perspectives get in the way of the story of God told through every human being. It’s his story.
Not every perspective character is the hero of the story.