We view things through lenses. Whether we admit it or not, we see things through our experiences, our perceptions, our ideas, and our values. I suppose that is what makes living so exciting; everyone has a different opinion or take on ever subject (or at least approaches a subject from a different place).
As Wolfgang Iser writes in his article “The reading process; a phenomenological approach,” “in considering a literary work, one must take into account not only the actual text but also, and in equal measure, the actions involved in responding to that text” (pg 189, Modern Criticism and Theory, David Lodge and Nigel Wood).
Although Wolfgang is writing about how readers interpret text, I believe that the same concept could be applied to life events. This makes sense of Kate Morrison’s thoughts about her brother Matt in the novel Crow Lake and how her thoughts are shattered when she is presented with a new way of seeing and thinking about her brother.
In the novel, Matt–Kate’s older brother–gives up his dream of going to University to stay in Crow Lake and marry his pregnant girlfriend. The two, Matt and Kate, spend hours learning together at the pond by their house and Matt was able to teach Kate a lot during those trips to the ponds. Because of their shared learning, Kate sees Matt’s decision to give up University as a tragedy and when she does head to University, she can’t bear to share the information she learns at school with her older brother out of guilt and shame. Her perception and the lens through which she views her brother creates tension within the family. Finally, Kate’s boyfriend suggests a new way to view Matt and his decision to stay and look after his pregnant girlfriend: “But it’s a shame. It’s not a tragedy. It makes no difference to who Matt is. Can’t you see that? No difference at all. The tragedy is that you think it’s so important. So important you’re letting it destroy the relationship the two of you had . . . ” (pg 309).
Wolfgang goes on to write in his article that “the more a text individualizes or confirms an expectation it has initially aroused, the more aware we become of its didactic purpose, so that at best we can only accept or reject the thesis forced upon us. More often than not, the very clarity of such texts will make us want to free ourselves from their clutches” (192). I believe this is very true for Kate in Crow Lake. When she is forced to either accept or reject her perception of Matt’s decision, she is able to confess: “I have become familiar with book and ideas you have never even imagined, and somehow, in the process of acquiring all that knowledge, I have managed to learn nothing at all” (317). Her thesis, as Wolfgang puts it, about Matt and his decision to forego University makes her realize that her lens and perception were not accurate. In fact, she does long to free herself from the clutches of her perceptions. She says, “It’s going to take time, I guess. If you’ve thought in a certain way for many years, if you’ve had a picture in your mind of how things are and that picture is suddenly shown to be faulty, well, it stands to reason that it will take a while to adjust. And during that time, you’re bound to feel. . . disconnected” (318).
I did enjoy reading Mary Lawson’ novel Crow Lake, yet I was not convinced I truly enjoyed it and appreciated it until that final moment of Kate having to look outside of her own lens and view with a completely different lens. Lawson’s ability to show that mental shift in her character Kate, and yet continue to be in the midst of a birthday party, was beautifully crafted and painfully real.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (I Corinthians 13:12)