Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Looking through the single window

Boo Radley and Scout Finch

Boo Radley and Scout Finch (Photo credit: Dunechaser)

In “The Great Gatsby”, Nick Carraway asserts, “life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.”

And that has been driving me nuts. Okay so it’s fiction, he’s just a narrator blah blah – but I find myself wondering whether or not this is a sensible idea.

I wrote a poem before called “Frames of Reference” about this idea – in response to the quote: “Of the multiplication of frameworks there shall be no end” R Barnett.

As a society, we have to live with an infinite proliferation of perspectives – but, as individuals – is life “much more successfully looked at from a single window”? That does seem to be where I ended up with my poem – as I stick my head through my ‘frame’ of reference and all I can see it “Truth”.

I supposed it depends whether that single perspective makes one blinkered. Or perhaps focused.

Then my mind leaps onto the Radley porch.

On the Radley porch, Scout Finch suddenly sees things from Boo’s point of view – at least, she can imagine what Boo would have seen while standing there. This crystalises for her the importance of human sympathy. By her literally standing there, she gets as near as she can to metaphorically walking in his shoes – she has learned to consider other people’s points of view.

She has learned that you have to look through other windows.

But, “life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all”.

And from there I arrive back at the “path of beauty” idea – where you put yourself in someone else’s shoes to learn what they see from there.


If anyone has followed that, I’m impressed.

Does that mean you are looking at the world from my porch? Or are you on my hastily constructed “path of beauty”? Or, have you got your own single window – and you’re looking at this objectively?

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10 thoughts on “Looking through the single window

  1. theotheri on said:

    Interesting reverie. As you might be able to guess, I think there is incomparable value in looking at the situations and questions from another’s perspective. But that doesn’t mean giving up the responsibility of making a commitment – for better and worse – to one’s own perspective. It does though, at least for me, have the effect of enriching and widening my own “window.”

    • Phew! I am understood 🙂
      I think there is a funny balance between objectivity and subjectivity. We can try as we might to be objective – but, no matter how hard we try, we have our own tinted window on the world, and we can do nothing but look through that.

      • theotheri on said:

        Yes! I think that’s what Kant meant when he said that the subject and object can never be totally separated in our experience. It is impossible for a living organism to transcend the perspective within which we are experiencing something, as if we had different senses, different kinds of brains, different assumptions about the nature of reality. We can know that our perspective is limited, that we cannot perceive “objective” reality as if we were not located in a specific time and place with the capacities of our particular species. But we can’t escape it.

        It’s a hard concept for many people to grasp, because we are so brain-washed with this idea that there is a world of “right answers” out there. But those “right answers” exist within the context of a particular perspective. Even 1 + 1 doesn’t always equal 2!

        Ultimately I have found this realization quite liberating. We’re not equipped to know everything, to always get everything right, to be all-powerful. It’s helped me live my life without feeling responsible for absolutely everything.

        Okay, I’ll stop. As you can see, you hit a hot topic for me!

        Thank you. T.

  2. Actually there has been a bit of a debate about how within politics and the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives view their world through a single window and only look at news sources that reinforce that singular worldview whereas liberals run throughout the house looking out into the world from multiple windows. I see how people can live doing both, preferring one window over multiple windows would narrow the choices and the person’s understanding, I would think. I don’t even know if I made sense, you did, I know that.:)

    • Yes thanks that totally makes sense. So, the liberal ends up feeling like a headless, directionless chicken and the conservative runs the risk of becoming arrogant and blinkered – and impossible for anyone else to relate to – both images are in extreme, of course.
      So, is the trick to be aware of the other windows, but not to feel the compulsion to look out of them all at once? Maybe that’s what’s “wrong” with democracy – you can’t pull in everyone’s direction all at once. Maybe life is looked at more “successfully” with one direction. But then…. yes – it all goes a bit right wing.
      Thanks for this idea, Laurie.

  3. Flora on said:

    It may be ‘looked at’ more successfully if the definition of ‘successfully’ is ‘simply’ I would argue that to be ‘lived’ more successfully, the multiple windows are required.

    • Thanks for this. I now have an image of a person in a house looking out of their single window – but behind them is flooded with the light of other perspectives that help them get a balanced context before they look out at others.

  4. It seems to me that Carraway is saying that the selfish life is more successful if looked at through a single window i.e. I see things from my perspective and that suits me.

    I prefer many windows…they bring light.

    • Yes – he is maybe thinking about Daisy and Tom – who, although “successful” are thoroughly despicable.
      Gatsby too had a single window – but it was a thoroughly broken one…

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