A mile in somebody’s shoes

In one of my psychology classes last semester, we discussed how it was impossible to understand a person’s situation until you know every aspect of his life. The cliché about walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes is an appropriate comparison. This is how I approached reading “Afternoon.” I did not read about the story or the software before I began reading, so I feel as if I jumped into the story blindly. The first narrative I came to was about the car accident and Peter’s subsequent actions. I took this to be the central plot point of the story. To me, the rest of “Afternoon” explained Peter’s actions and his life.

I think of it almost as a picture of concentric circles. Peter is in the center at the time of the car accident. All the other paths we trace throughout the story surround the central character. We are able to see more of the story every time we read a new path. The end of the story is unclear; but to see the most of the picture we have to continue to read things that sometimes seem unrelated and confusing. Sometimes, we have to read the same thing over and over again. To me, this is the author shouting, “This part is important!” It’s like having the thicker lines in the picture. The more and more we read, the more we see of the full picture and the more we can understand about the entire story. If we only saw the center of the picture we would only see a black circle. This does not mean very much. Similarly, if we only read the story through one time, we would only see one character or one event. There is an entire story and life behind each character and event in any story that we read.
I think we should take this story and apply principles of it to other forms of literature. Stories are not written in a vacuum. There are social, political, economic, and cultural threads that affect each story that is ever written. We need to look at literature as a whole, not just look at each as a single story.

4 Comments on “A mile in somebody’s shoes”

  1. Brittany Stoudemire says:

    Jessica, I totally agree. I think that it is important to look at literature as a whole and not just as a single story. One thing that I really enjoyed about you post was the picture of the concentric circles. Not only can the thicker lines represent different paths, but if you look at the picture as a whole it can be somewhat hard to stare at which can be related to the character’s situation. For instance, their situation may be similar in that it can become hard to understand due to the multiple interpretations.

    • Brian Croxall says:

      Excellent point about the difficulty of looking at such an image and comparing it to the narrative, Brittany.

  2. Candice Bang says:

    Jessica, I found your post to be helpful because it reminded me to perhaps see this work from a broader scope. I liked how you brought in your experience from psychology to reconcile some difficulties we would encounter in Afternoon. I think it gets frustrating when the reader focuses on just one fragment at a time or just tries too hard to close read. This hyperfiction seems to prompt us to view it from a wider outlook.

  3. Brian Croxall says:

    I really appreciate your perspective on what the repetition adds to the narrative, Jessica. I find the same thing happens when I re-read a print novel several times.