In Lupton’s Graphic Design: The New Basics, the following quote was included:
“If you touch something (it is likely) someone will feel it. If you feel something (it is likely) someone will be touched.” – Rick Valicenti
This is kind of how I felt when reading My Sister’s Keeper. I was touched by the story. I felt like I was a part of the story. I couldn’t separate my own life from the story, because I could relate to so many aspects of this tale. The story came to life for me in a way that felt tangible and real and all the multiple perspectives just allowed me to latch onto even more characters and story lines.
Cornell was concerned with the search for the self. Often, he looked back to his childhood in the hopes of understanding his past, his present, and himself better. However, many times, Cornell would use other subjects or concepts or ideas to help him figure himself out. He would create a box about something entirely different, and yet viewers could not help but observe how the box seemed to be saying more about Cornell, than anything else. Blair writes about how in the ‘Lauren Bacall’ dossier, “the box epitomizes his obsession not just with a particular woman and the cinema but also with the processes of his own mind” (141). She also goes on to say that “Lauren Bacall, in fact, reveals much more about Cornell than it does Bacall, and in this is more self-portrait than portrait” (141). This is interesting to think about in relation to Picoult’s novel, because it seems to go along with this idea of interconnectedness or interdependency and how one defines oneself. One cannot define oneself without presenting it in context to something else. There must be some means of comparison.
In My Sister’s Keeper, this means of comparison is often Kate. Anna is not as sick as Kate, but she might as well be. The mother knows Kate is not yet dead, but she acts as if Kate already is. Much like Bacall used others to help present information about himself, Picoult uses this technique to give the reader a chance to glean information about the multiple characters. Presenting this text from multiple perspectives allows the reader to create his or her own portrait. However, the reader gets this sense that the story is not really about Kate, much like the box is not really about Lauren Bacall. The story is about how everyone, including reader, is affected by Kate, much like Cornell’s box is more indicative of how he was affected by Lauren Bacall.
When creating my blox, I once again relied heavily on the idea of the glimpse, like Cornell did. With multiple perspectives, readers are given glimpses into different lives, but only glimpses, because, soon, it is the next person’s turn to speak. However, through these glimpses, the layers are created, until a full portrait can be achieved. Blair writes: “It has resulted in an art with layers and layers of meaning that seep out over time”(22). The art of creating boxes, has to do with layering.
In my box, I tried to present an image that conveys these multiples perspectives and layers and yet I wanted to make the pictures almost blend into one another in a way that illustrates how they are different, and represent different views, but that they cannot really be separated. There are multiple story lines, yes, but these story lines only exist because of one another. They could not exist on their own.
The background of the blox is a mirror. I choose the mirror as my background, to really emphasize this idea that you see what you want to see in this story. Much like the characters see what they want to see, so does the reader. When reading this book, I felt like I was being forced to look into a mirror and see myself and how I relate to these characters. It made me think about who I am as a person as compared to how the characters are. I wanted to present the viewers of my blox with this same sensation. Blair writes: “Visual communication with the self is dependent on the mirror: the mirror is the primary agent through which we glean knowledge of our appearance…the appeal that the mirror has…for the artist is very evident in Cornell’s art” (22-23). I also included seven different eyes throughout my blox to illustrate the seven points of view in this narrative. Each eye is positioned at a different angle and spot on the mirror. They all see the same image, but, they all see it from a different perspective.
In the center of the blox, there is a spider web to visually represent the interconnectedness of the story, and also how easy it is to get stuck in a certain spot, or let yourself get stuck or trapped within a role. Anna feels trapped in her role of donor. The family feels trapped and unsure of how to proceed. And yet, the point is that each family member exists on a different place of this web. They are all connected, but they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye. I also included the sky on the bottom of the blox, to show how distorted perspective can be, how sometimes we see things all mixed up and wrong, and are not looking at things correctly. Or more so, who is to say what is the correct way to look at things? Maybe it is just about coming to an agreement on how things should be seen and taking all points of view into consideration before doing so.
There are hands in the top left corner and a map is drawn on these hands. Here is the idea that the world is smaller than it seems and can fit in the palm of our hands. We can hold the world, and even though it seems so large, because we are all connected, it is not so big after all. We literally hold the power to have these connections. We just have to seize the opportunity.
Below the hands is a house. I used the house as a sort of reference point. Because all the eyes are located at different points on this plane, they view the house differently depending on where they are located. Also, the fact that the hands look like they dropped the house in that spot, points to the fact that this house is made up of connections, and that this cannot be changed. This house exists. The people in this house are a family, even if it feels like they exist in different worlds.
There are images of the same girl in three different positions to also emphasize the idea of multiplicity. The same person in three different spots, will see three different things. I included the drawing of a city to create visual perspective. Depending on where the girl stands in the city, a different image will be seen. And sometimes this image is distorted. If people can’t step into each other’s shoes, then it is hard for understandings to be reached. So many of the issues in this book, are due to the fact that no one knows what each other wants. No one is willing to step in the other person’s shoes. If only they did, then they would see the same city. They would be on the same page. Alas, Jodi Picoult had to create multiple perspectives on different pages to prove her point.
The tree represents the tree of life and how this family has roots and is connected. There is this idea of life and the continuing of life in this novel. The only reason Anna is conceived – given life – is to save Kate’s life. Obviously, preserving life, is a main story line. I also included the image of the family hanging by a string. The family is literally strung together, tied together. They are connected and cannot be separated. And yet the idea that they are hanging by a thread helps to illustrate how weak there ties are right now, and yet, they are still there. They cannot be completely severed.
And, finally, I included the dominoes to show how an action made by one character is felt by all. Despite these characters feeling like they live in separate worlds, they don’t. They feel emotionally separated, but when someone falls, they all do. They are dominoes. They touch, they fall, they hurt. Multiple times. But, ultimately, they need to learn that they are all connected. And that this is what really matters.
When it comes to adaptions, there are many routes one can take. Everyone who reads a story, takes something different out of it. There are multiple perspectives a reader can have on a tale, much like a writer can present multiple perspectives to the audience. The interesting part about Picoult’s books, is that there is never just one narrator. There are multiple narrators. In My Sister’s Keeper, we have around seven narrators. Their lives are intertwined, but each has a unique voice. This allows readers to gain insight into each of the character’s minds. Seger mentions a narrator can move in and out of a character’s life, even going inside a character’s head, to let the reader know what he or she is feeling or thinking. However, films have trouble doing this. Films gives us an objective observer of actions. She writes: “Film doesn’t give us an interior look at a character. A novel does” (20).
However, it is harder to convey different points of view in film. Seger writes: “A film, like a novel, also presents a point of view, but to determine whose point of view the screenwriter asks different questions than the novelist. The screenwriter asks, ‘to what extent do I focus only on one character’s world, thereby only showing scenes that contain that particular character'” (26)? The same issues are also present in a blox – what points of view should I focus on when it comes to adapting the literary work to something visual? What elements of the narrative should I include? There are so many different story lines coexisting, how can I separate these and yet show their interconnectedness?
I think, it has to do with the common thread connecting them all – Kate. Here we have what Seger would call our “story arc” – Kate’s illness. Because of this illness, we have a story. Seger considers the story arc the story spine. She writes: “All the events within the story arc are connected to the objective and bring us closer to the climax” (91). And because of this one story, we have multiple stories stemming off of it. It is difficult to separate the story lines, but maybe that is the point. Maybe, what is more important, is that these stories can’t really be disconnected. Instead, in order to adapt, we must focus on how they are connected and why and what this means. In this case, the conflict is that Anna wants to be emancipated from this connection, and yet finds it difficult to do so. The family cannot help but feel the actions and consequences of everyone else. In order to adapt, this idea of interconnectedness, multiples points of view and perspectives, must be captured.
I used to not believe people when they said we live in a small world. For me, it always seemed frighteningly large. When I was younger, my backyard was enough of an adventure. There was the tool shed in the corner, the pool, the plethora of plants and flowers. There was also this little wooden square thing attached to our house I would like to climb on top of and look over the fence to spy on the neighbors. It was a big world, my backyard. When I added the front yard and then the whole neighborhood to it, the world just seemed to grow.
But then one day, I realized that everything is relative. It is all about perspective. To little me, everything and everyone seemed giant. Mom and dad were huge – and if I wanted to see the world better, I could ask them to hold me in their arms so I could see over people’s heads or even just out the window. I learned to jump on the kitchen counter to reach the cups. Mom always used to yell at me when there were scuff marks on the counter after. However, I grew up and with that, I got taller and wiser and probably a bit more cynical. I could see out the window, and sometimes I saw things I didn’t want to see, maybe shouldn’t have seen. But I did.
And then one day, I went to college, and I realized that even on a huge campus like the University of Florida, I will run into multiple people I know on any given day. The campus is not so large. The world is not so large. I ran into people I knew in Italy and Costa Rica and people were shocked when I told them this. I was shocked when I encountered these situations. But, now, I think I can just chalk it up to the fact that the world is much smaller than it seems. And, this, I believe is due to our interconnectedness. We all live in the same world, and, therefore, are bond to have connections. Life is all about connections.
Calvino describes the concept of multiplicity as a web. We are all a part of this web, some of our lines overlapping, some just barely touching, some lines we may never be aware of now, maybe ever. And some we could not live without being close to. These are the people who really matter. However, this idea of a web, makes the idea of connectedness or multiplicity inevitable. With a web, you are literally stuck in the web. It is hard to get out of the web. With multiplicity, it is hard not to encounter it, engage in it, experience it. Multiplicity exists. Bottom line.
In My Sister’s Keeper, we have a tale told from multiple perspectives – mother, father, lawyer, guardian ad litem, sister, brother, other sister. The book is constantly switching perspectives. However, the interesting thing Jodi Picoult is doing, is she is telling the same tale from multiple viewpoints. Readers get the same story, but in many different ways. Each character has a unique voice and story to tell, but these stories and these voices are still connected to all the others. Here is where the notion of being an individual and yet being a part of something so much bigger, comes into play. Human beings may have autonomous thoughts, but they are not autonomous, because they are, inevitably, connected to others.
An interesting concept in this book, is the notion that one can’t define oneself without defining oneself in relation to others. Anna defines herself in terms of Kate. One can go so far to say, that Anna only exists because of Kate. Therefore, she can never be seen as a single entity, because she is so closely intertwined with another. They share the same genetic information and Kate depends on Anna to live. Therefore, Kate is just as connected to Anna, as Anna is to Kate. Both have this sort of symbiotic relationship.
Meanwhile, the idea of a sort of domino effect can be seen in this storyline. When one person starts to fall, it has an effect on everyone. When one person sets something into motion, it causes everyone’s world to collapse. When Kate gets cancer, the whole family’s world is affected. When Anna decides to go to court, the impact is felt by all the characters in the novel. Here the idea of multiplicity is ever-present: one person’s actions will most definitely effect many other people. The lives of these characters are so intertwined, that something felt by one of them, will eventually touch all of them.
Another idea of multiplicity in this story, is the idea that people will see what they want to see. The mother sees Kate as being sick and, therefore, the number one priority. As a result, Anna feels invisible. She feels like she is not important, that what she has to say does not matter. Here is the idea that how much attention one chooses to apply to someone, will be felt by everyone. If one spends more attention on one of their daughters, the other, will most definitely feel this imbalance.
The idea of multiplicity implies that no action will go unnoticed. And someone who feels like his or her actions are going unnoticed, will go to great lengths to make them noticed. People have this need to feel connected, to feel like they matter. And this novel is about asserting one’s connections to others, and yet choosing when to speak and when not to. It is about choice – having the choose to interact with others, having the choice to be connected, and yet realizing that, inevitably, it isn’t really a choice. It is life. We are connected, whether we want to be or not.
I am sitting outside right now. The breeze is nice. The sky is blue with just the right amount of cloud. And I am trying to think of a good opening for the idea of multiplicity, this idea that everything is connected, or repeated, or branches off from a common point. It reminded me of something I wrote a month ago. I think, in a way, this writing illustrates the idea of multiplicity:
When I woke up yesterday morning, it hit me! I have been having this somewhat reoccurring dream my whole life. I don’t know why it took me so long to come to that conclusion. Usually it is because I forget my dreams, or I don’t think hard enough to remember them. Or maybe a bit of both. But anyway, when I woke up from the dream yesterday I was struck by the familiarity of it, so much so that I wondered if it was real. That is when I realized it was because I had had this dream before – multiple times.
So here is the part of the dream that is the same: In order to get to a place (usually it is Miami, I think – or at least it was this time around) I have to drive on this road. Except the road has two giant gaps in it. It goes straight and solid for a while, but then, during this one section where it is going over the ocean (or a waterway of some sort) there is a giant chunk of the road missing, followed by a small chunk of road, and then another chunk is missing, followed by the complete rest of the road. Therefore, there are these two giant gaps. The point is you have to fearlessly be able to drive fast enough to leap over the water and land on the rest of the road. If you don’t, you will fall – sometimes there is netting to catch you, but it doesn’t really do much, because the car is so heavy. Sometimes you just plunge to your death. The thing is, if someone else is driving, I don’t get as worried. It is when I have to make this drive, that I freak out and freeze.
I could sit here for hours and try to psychoanalyze my dream. Am I afraid of losing control, of falling and crashing? Am I afraid to just drive, to just be, and not think too much? These things seem like they could apply. But then I think about the fact that it is a dream – it is only a dream. Freud said that “dreams are the royal roads to the unconscious.” Well my royal road is fragmented and flawed. What does that say about me?
I know that is a long excerpt, but I think, in a way, it illustrates the idea of multiplicity – this repeating of thoughts, this intertwining of ideas, this notion that something is not solitary or limited to happening once. It was very weird to realize that this dream had been a multiple occurrence for me. But it was also a comfort to accept this, to know that at its core, there was a solid thread, a template of sorts. It also highlights the idea that life is complex, composed of many storylines, many confusing thoughts. However if we can find some point of reference, have something solid to hold on to – like the realization that the dream is a sort of constant – than we can start to pick away at the multiplicity, the complexity.
Calvino describes multiplicity much in this manner. He started off his introduction by discussing some of Gadda’s theories. Gadda compared multiplicity to the idea of an encyclopedia, “as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world” (105).
Likewise, Calvino describes multiplicity as a network of links, as a sort of system. Calvino writes: “The grand challenge for literature is to be capable of weaving together the various branches of knowledge, the various “codes,” into a manifold and multifaceted vision of the world” (112).
A literary example of multiplicity would be Orlando, by Virginia Woolf. Orlando lives “multiple” lives throughout time. She plays many parts, acquires a large history – she makes connections with many people. These connections, for the most part, change, but for a point in time, they were there. Orlando’s history is a sort of system, or network of these connections. The world around her – the landscape, technology, people – they all change. However, the one constant, the center of this system, is Orlando, herself. She does not age. Like the “I,” in the E-lit piece, Orlando is the center in this ever-changing landscape. While the “you,” and “we’s” are altered, she, for the most part, is not. Her world, is somewhat like that infinite cube – endless possibilities of connections, and yet a center that is grounded. In this way, I think Orlando represents the idea of multiplicity.