Reality? How do we know it’s real?

How is the manipulation of reality portrayed in literature? This is explored in Wideman’s “Stories,” Borges’s “The Circular Ruins” and Sontag’s “On Photography”. All of these works of literature look at reality in very interesting and different ways. It seems that there can be multiple realities and sometimes people will make up reality for people that they don’t even know. In Wideman’s “stories,” the narrator is seeing a man eating a banana from the perspective a man watching from a window. In this story, it’s hard to tell whose reality the story is being told from. In “The Circular Ruins,” you see a man who is dreaming of other people and making up realities for other people. In “On Photography” by Sontag, Sontag discusses how you can really make your own reality in your photography and make it any way you want. In the literary works by Borges, Sontag, and Wideman they all show that reality is subjective to the person interpreting the situation.

In Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Circular Ruins,” the perception of reality is very hard to grasp. It is a story of a man who is feeling he is from somewhere. He soon begins to dream about teaching a class. Soon he starts to teach only one student, one alone and teaches him everything he knows. He then sends the student to train down the river, to a place where there are ruins that catch fire. The man thinks to head to the water to hide from the flames; but the flames didn’t affect him and he realizes that he was in another man’s dream: “With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him.”(Borges). This shows how the man was in someone else’s dream even though the man himself was having dreams in another man’s head; all at the same time. This is one man’s reality, but in fact, there are three different realities. The reality of the man who had the dream, the reality of the student and his own reality. This shows that reality is subjective because the man who is dreaming of these people is dreaming and his dreams are subjective.

In Susan Sontag’s On Photography, she says “ Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are” (Sontag). In this, Sontag is saying that in photography, reality can be molded and shaped to whatever the photographer wants. It can be just like a painting; you can make things just as you want. So when you see a picture it’s part of reality but all of the aspects of the image can be changed. It’s subjective because it’s affected by the person’s preference.

John Edgar Wideman’s “Stories,” tells a tale of a man walking in the rain eating a banana. It is a strange story, and it seems to be told by someone who is watching him from a window: “The only answer I know is this: all the stories I could make from this man walking in the rain eating banana would be sad unless I’m behind a window with you looking out at him.”(Wideman). This shows that the story is being told from someone watching from a window. This person in the window is just trying to figure out what the man was doing and what made him want to eat a banana in the rain. He also goes on to say that all the stories he would come up with would be sad without this other person. It’s subjective because the man’s emotions are affecting it.

All three of these stories have the same engineered reality. All these change the reality of the people they are dreaming about or writing about or capturing. They change according to what they subjectively like. Most people are subjective when it comes to their work because it’s very hard to leave out personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. In Borges’s story, the man is dreaming so he is projecting his life into the dream so it is subjective. In Sontag’s piece, she tells us that her work is changed because of her taste and how she wants to perceive the photo, so it’s subjective. In Wideman’s “Stories,” the story is made because the person who is telling it misses someone, so its objective. Thus, the literary works by Borges, Sontag, and Wideman all show that reality is subjective to the person interpreting the situation.

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