I’m a bit biased – I have always been more prone to dwell on written word than visual image. However, written word supplies visual images to me. In many ways, words are my building blocks for an image. When I see an image – I see the words that make it visual. I see “how the butterfly’s wings momentarily kiss when it gracefully rests its body upon the tip of the flower.” When I describe images, I speak about them in a verbally explicit manner. I guess I am not much of a minimalist when it comes to words. I let them fall out of the sky like rain. It is hard for me to stop the flow.
When Calvino discusses visibility, he mentions that visibility can be seen in two ways: the words create an image, or the images creates words to describe it. When it comes to starting a story, an author can go about it either way. In Jodi Picoult’s case, she always comments that the “what if” question is what prompts her storyline. For her, the idea is the seed. And from there, she says the “characters pop up like mushrooms.” Therefore, the grounding force in her mind, is the idea behind everything, and from there, images start to form – characters take shape, and plot lines become more full-fleshed.
Something that draws me to Jodi Picoult’s works is her ability to make her characters seem so realistic, I can see them in my mind. Picoult’s attention to detail enables her to create a psychologically complex world, filled with a multitude of desires. This desire feels almost tangible. It is like, if I just reached out, I could touch it. I can feel it. It is there.
Not only is the book written in a way that promotes visualization, but the themes of this book have to do with speaking and visibility. Here are a few quotes from the book that illustrate this idea:
“Anna gives us a backbeat, and seeing her sitting there unresponsive makes me realize that silence has a sound” (39).
“This is when I realize that Anna has already left the table, and more importantly, that nobody noticed” (40).
Here is the idea that speaking and not speaking can affect an image. Silence can be just as much of a physical space as noise. The absence of noise is felt just as much as the presence of it – maybe even more, because it is unexpected. Speaking can create more space, it can disrupt a space, it can destroy a space. When Anna opens her mouth to assert her independence, she creates a gulf in her family. Through her verbal actions, she physically alters the image of her family. In the second quote included above, there is this idea of invisibility, and how not being present creates an image, as well. The absence of something disrupts the family image just as much as the presence. Giving birth to Anna – bringing her into the picture, was a means of keeping Kate within the family image. Anna is a means of upholding this picture. However, when Anna goes to the lawyer, she is taking steps toward altering this image in the hopes of creating a new one that includes her more, that makes her feel more visible and important. She wants to physically create a space for herself. The idea of visibility, is creating spaces, images. It is about mapping out a world and giving it life.
The idea of visibility is that images are constantly changing. The stability of an image, much like the stability of words, is an illusion. Words and images will inevitably change. To really emphasize how collapsible the novel’s world seems, the mother, at one point, says: “Driving home, I am struck by the sudden thought that the world is inflatable – trees and grass and houses ready to collapse with the single prick of a pin” (Picoult 34). Here in these words, the reader gets a sense that the visible images in this story are blurred and muddied and prone to collapse. What seems more salient in this novel, are the spoken words. The impact of words last longer than the image. The image is subject to change. While the words do, too, the implications of them are felt deeper and stronger. The words create changing images, that help the reader gain a sense of how communication is affecting the image of this world, the self-concepts felt by the characters. Not only is Jodi Picoult opening her mouth to speak and create a controversial image, but she is having her characters do so, as well as challenging readers to follow suit.
My emblem for exactitude is a musical instrument. With a musical instrument, you can blow in the instrument a certain way, push down on a particular key, make a note shorter, more staccato, or make it longer and slurred – you can control the way in which the sound comes out into the world. The sound comes out in an exact way.
For many years, I played the piano. You can create tone, rhythm, a certain vibe. If you want the music to sound jazzy, certain beat and chord combinations help create this mood. If you want something to sound slow and connected, you can step on a peddle to make the notes blur from one to the next.
I also played the flute for a long time. With the flute, you can blow into the instrument stronger to create a louder sound. You can barely blow in it at all, and the sound will be soft. Based on how fast your move your tongue to create notes, the notes can come out fast and clipped or long and smooth. With this instrument, like with other instruments, you can create an exact sound, emotion, atmosphere.
Much like the E-lit piece that used different texture, or landscapes, to evoke a particular image, an instrument can control mood, as well. To a degree, you can make that instrument obedient, or exact, much in the way Ella behaves in the novel and movie. Music has power in its exactitude – it has the power to move, to sway, to make people think in a certain manner. Like a crystal can create an exact shape and reflect images, an instrument can create an exact sound and reflect a mood. Words, images, music – they speak in exact ways. They say something specific. They say a lot.