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 t
e 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.