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What Determines The Point Of View

The point of view of any individual depends upon temperament, present
conditions--mental and physical--and the aim of the life. That is, it
depends upon his inherited tendencies plus a unique personal something,
plus all the facts of his environment and experience, plus what he lives

Richard and Jim both live in Philadelphia, Richard on Walnut Street and
Jim on Sansom Street. Richard's father is of the best Quaker stock, with
hundreds of years of gentle and aristocratic ancestry behind him. He
followed his father and his grandfather into the profession of medicine,
and is a well-known specialist, alert, keen, expert, and deservedly
honored. He is at home in Greek and Latin, French, and the sciences. He
selects at a glance only the conservative best in art and music and
literature. His world is a gentleman's world, a scholar's world, and the
world of a scientist and a humanitarian. And Richard, his son, is true
to type.

Jim's father is the ash man. His world is in the alleys and basements.
His pastime, cheap movies, and the park on Sundays. When he is not
working he is too "dead tired" for anything heavier than the Sunday
Supplement or perhaps the socialist club-rooms, where he talks about the
down-trodden working man and learns to hate the "idle" rich. He spends
his money on food and cheap shows and showy clothes. He talks loudly,
eats ravenously, works hard, is honest, and wants something better for
his children than he and the "old woman" have had. His music is the
street-organ, the movie piano, and the band--some of it excellent
too--but none of your dreamy stuff--good and lively. And his son, Jim,
is true to type.

After the Armistice Jim and Richard, who have fought for months side by
side, go to Paris together. Richard may "have a fling" at Jim's
amusements for the sake of playing the game and "seeing how the other
half lives" and all that--but before long we shall find him in the
high-class theaters and restaurants, visiting the wonderful art
collections and libraries, riding in luxurious automobiles, and staying
in the best hotels he can find. And even though Jim may have saved
Richard's life and Richard is eternally grateful, and loves Jim as a
"dandy good scout," their ways will inevitably drift apart when the one
big common interest of fighting together for a free world is over. They
will always remember each other. Jim will decide that a "highbrow" can
be a real man, and Richard will ever after have a fellow-feeling for the
"other half" and think of them now as "folks." But Jim is not at home in
Richard's neighborhood and circle; and Richard is a fish out of water in
Jim's. The point of view of each has been largely determined by his
heredity and his environment.

But suppose Jim isn't true to type. From the time he was a mere
youngster the ash-man life did not appeal to him. In school he liked the
highbrow crowd; he "took to" Latin and literature. He has a feeling of
vague disgust when he sees a vulgar picture, a shudder when the
street-organ grinds. There is something in Jim different. He isn't in
tune with either his immediate heredity or his environment. The
contribution from some remote ancestor has overbalanced the rest, and
Jim becomes a professional man.

Or perhaps Richard breaks his father's heart. Instead of following the
trail already made, he cuts loose, frequents vulgar resorts, hates his
school work, becomes a loafer and a bum--and, finally, a second-rate day
laborer. Again, what he is himself, his "vital spark" has been stronger
than immediate heredity and environment, and has broken through.

Next: Getting The Other Man's Point Of View

Previous: The Attention Of Reason And Will

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