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Comparative | General Vision and Viewpoint | Citizen Kane, The Dead and Wuthering Heights

2007 Higher Level Paper II

‘The general vision and viewpoint is shaped by the reader’s feelings of optimism or pessimism in reading the text.’ 

In light of the above statement, compare the general vision and viewpoint in at least two texts you have studied in your comparative course.

The general vision and viewpoint is undoubtedly shaped by the reader’s feelings of optimism or pessimism in reading the text. It is the view on life that emerges in the reader’s interpretation of the text, and is therefore shaped by each individual reader. During my comparative course I have studied ‘The Dead’ by James Joyce (TD) (adapted for play by Frank McGuinness), ‘Citizen Kane’ directed by and starring Orson Welles (CK) and ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte (WH). The general vision and viewpoint of each of these texts correlate and diverge in a number of interesting ways, with feelings of both optimism and pessimism emerging at sundry points throughout.

leaving cert english comparative general vision and viewpoint citizen kane

In all three of the texts, the central characters are introduced from the opening scenes. A shot in deep focus of the awe-inspiring Xanadu before the death of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane launches CK. A wacky newsreel showing the history of the world during Kane’s lifetime follows, while an eerie hymn foreshadowing ghostly happenings is the first section of TD. Soon after Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta arrive at the dinner party, the setting for TD, and a feeling of optimism emerges as it is the start of what is expected to be a wonderfully festive evening. Similarly in WH, the novel begins with our frame narrator Mr Lockwood arriving at a house (wuthering Heights), but instead a feeling of pessimism is prevalent as Lockwood is subject to gothic elements (such as snarling dogs at his heels) and a cruel welcome from Heathcliff.  I found the general vision and viewpoint I gained from these opening scenes to contrast, as TD begins quite optimistically to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, while WH and CK both commenced rather bleakly.

A similarity between the settings in the three comparative texts I have studied is that they all take place in a variety of locations. TD, while mainly is shaped around the optimistic party at the Mrs Morkans’ sisters house on the Liffey quays, also has a key scene set in The Gresham Hotel on Sackvillle Street (now O’Connell Street). The prolepses and analepses in CK means most scenes take place in different venues, but the film begins and ends with Kane’s lavishly gothic and pessimistic mansion estate: Xanadu (perhaps named after the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge). This gothic element continues in WH, whose eponymous location is the windy moors of Gimmerton, Yorkshire, but the majority of action happens in either Wuthering Heights or its foil character of Thrushcross Grange. As a reader, I felt the general vision and viewpoint of these texts were definitely somewhat shaped by my feelings towards these settings and whether I found them to be optimistic or pessimistic.

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Whilst many of the settings started off rather optimistic, by the conclusion of my reading I felt pessimistic towards them all. This is because each setting, with intrinsic reading, can be realised to be very different to how it appears on the outside. Mrs Morkans’ home appears to be a lively home full of the happy upper middle class enjoying life, when in reality it is the home of two aging and dying spinsters, of whom many of the guests would like some of their inheritance. Similarly in CK, Xanadu rises from the ground dominating the Florida landscape like a whale leaping from the ocean, but inside lays an unhappy marriage and a man whose dreams have led him to becoming insane. In WH it is more straightforward – while WH as a house never appeared idyllic to me as a reader, the absolute monstrosities that occur throughout definitely leaves it with a pessimistic vision in my eyes.

The ending of a text is vital to how the general vision and viewpoint is perceived to the reader and whether they find it optimistic or pessimistic. Bizarrely, of my three texts, the one which contains the most pessimism throughout is the only one to end on a somewhat positive note – Wuthering Heights. In Wuthering Heights we end with Lockwood returning to WH again to find our diegetic narrator Nelly returned to WH where bewildered Heathcliff has been buried beside Catherine, and Cathy and Hareton are engaged after Cathy gradually broke down Hareton’s resistance by offering to teach him to read. I find the general vision and viewpoint of the text at this point to be quite positive – a new generation is about to begin again at the house which has seen so much action the four decades previous.

Gabriel’s epiphany at the end of the play highlights the psychological vision and viewpoint of the play. He realises that he was not his wife’s first love, and in Edwardian Dublin (1904) this is somewhat unacceptable. His soliloquy while his wife sleeps means the play ends on a poetic but rather dismal note, as Gabriel has clearly entered into a depression from the news and must try to work through it and keep his relationship with his wife alive and nurtured. The final scene of CK is full of dramatic irony with the audience finally finding out who ‘Rosebud’ is – CK’s last words and the integral unknown character throughout the story – while the media and staff of Kane remain clueless. After Kane’s death his staff are burning many of his possessions from Xandu, and when a worker places a snowboard onto the flames the words Rosebud are clearly visible: this childhood toy is what Kane was thinking of, what he wanted and desired on his deathbed – despite the lavish utopia he had tried desperately to create for himself at Xanadu. This is an awfully sad and pessimistic ending, but it teaches the reader that money and power do not bring happiness.

In conclusion, I agree that the general vision and viewpoint is shaped by the reader’s feelings of optimism or pessimism in reading the text, but I also think the general vision must take into account broader feelings than just those binary oppositions. Throughout the studying of my comparative texts I felt optimism, pessimism, empathy, anger and many more emotions besides. The very fact as a reader I am able to enter these texts so vividly and truly feel these wild emotions through the mediums of a play, novel and film is remarkable – and the general vision and viewpoint of these texts undoubtedly heightened this enjoyment.

Based on an essay of a Leaving Cert student

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