Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Haagen Dazs Parallax Explained

In the story entitled "Interlude" posted on this blog this weekend past, I introduced the concept of the Haagen Dazs Parallax. I used this definition of Parallax in the text:

Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight.

The main characters in this story had happened upon a situation which, much like those optical illusions one sees in photographs, offered at least two differing perspectives of the situation depending on the participant's point of view. This principle of perspective is how the illusions are acheived. The young girl holding up the Eiffel Tower in the palm of her hand, for instance. In this story of an imperfect man, who tries hard but rarely gets it right, and his idea of his wife and how they came to be man and wife, there are three perspectives employed. The first is that of the man and wife, who, through circumstances and choices, wound up living with his parents; and the second, that of the man's sister, who through circumstances and choices, still lived with her mother as well.   To the sister in the story, her sister-in law's purchase of the Haagen Dazs ice cream was an aggregious attack on propriety; a symbol of selfishness; ungrateful and inconsiderate. Words this character may have used come to mind, if I were rewriting the dialogue for some reason; words like "How could you waste money on this frivoloty when you are mooching off your husband's parents." Or this, "You have your priorities messed up if you are spending your money on this instead of ". This certainly is a point of view. From the position of the sister, right or wrong, this is the opinion she chose to make out of what she thought she really saw when the wife walked in with the ice cream. To the sister, the ice cream was a really big thing.   To the husband, the perspective was much different. What he saw in the ice cream was his wife enjoying herself for the first time in a year. He had the benefit, perhaps, of dealing with the end-of-the-pay period blues; of seeing his wife sacrifice everything to buy diapers, milk, and pay the bills. To the husband the ice cream was really the only way to physically show his wife that he understood - he couldn't offer her anything else. And an attack on his wife over a tub of ice cream really set the stage for the big family meeting to come. At that point, when the ice cream came into view, that was all he had to give. But as you read in the story, he soon found something bigger to give - committment. To the husband, the ice cream was really small.  
I don't pretend to know how women think. So I left alot of the perspective of the female characters unwritten. But since I am the mystical overlord of the universes I try to create in print, I will do my best.  To the wife, the ice cream was a harmless indulgence, that perhaps gave her some hope. How many of us do not take a few minutes to sit in the tub or eat a double dessert or turn the radio up really loud from time to time, just because life has become so difficult and complex. How many of us, after perhaps months or years of not buying anything for ourselves would limit our "break loose" extravaganzas to a $4.00 tub of ice cream? To the wife, the ice cream was everything.  

It is difficult, I know, when reading something to try to read one's self into the story. We try very hard, by human natutre, to identify with some character or some event. It is precisely this, that causes the parallax in the first place. We all have our own perspective. I am sure, at some point, someone will read this and Interlude, and try to do just this. They will try, whether they think they are or not, to read themselves into the story. And they may completely disagree with the perspectives I put my characters into. All I can say is this. This is a story from a man to his wife in anticipation of his anniversary, which he always forgets. In those instances where you the reader "read yourself" into a sympathetic character, you are welcome. In those instances where you find yourselves offended that I placed a character into an unflattering perspective - everything will be okay.

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