Lots of students – and teachers if we’re honest – struggle to define the concept of general vision and viewpoint. It can seem kind of vague and wooly beside the others modes, which are pretty straightforward once you get a grasp of them.

I guess there are two main elements to gv+v
Element one: first let’s think about the person who creates the text. When a writer writes a book or a play or directs a film they have a particular view of the world and of the human beings who live in it! In really really simple terms, if their stories always have a happy ending, if the characters triumph over adversity, if true love conquers all, if good is rewarded and evil punished, then the vision of the world they offer is positive and their viewpoint is optimistic. Very few texts will be this straightforward however. Often bad things happen to good people in texts and the vision never stays the same the whole way through – but we’ll come back to this later!
For now though, let’s keep it simple!
So as described above the first element to gv&v is created by the writer.
The second element however is something the writer cannot control – and this is the way the reader/viewer responds to the vision they have created. I, for example, don’t like romantic comedies. I think they are formulaic, predictable, simplistic and sickly sweet. So even though the person who wrote it might want me to respond positively to the vision they are offering, I probably won’t.
Now let’s look at a specific exam question:
“THE GENERAL VISION AND VIEWPOINT IS SHAPED BY THE READER’S FEELING OF OPTIMISM OR PESSIMISM IN READING THE TEXT”. IN LIGHT OF THE ABOVE STATEMENT, COMPARE THE GENERAL VISION AND VIEWPOINT IN AT LEAST TWO TEXTS YOU HAVE STUDIED IN YOUR COMPARATIVE COURSE.
I think the wording of the question might be confusing at first. Keep this in mind – ultimately YOU decide what vision of the world is being offered. Thus you could write this sentence in your essay: “In my opinion, the director offers a very romantic and idealistic vision of relationships in the scene where……..(fill in specific details) but I personally find this viewpoint overly simplistic and cliched. He wants the viewer to be swept up in the drama, and uses a sweeping violin score to achieve this, but I found myself rolling my eyes rather than sighing wistfully“.
And then of course you have to tie this into another text, and then another. To see how this is done, have a look at my post “Cracking the Comparative
You may also have noticed a third, related element to gv&v which is HOW the vision is communicated. This refers to HOW the mood and atmosphere is created – for example through close-ups of facial expressions, through music, through symbolism, through flashbacks (to create nostalgia or to add backstory), through the relationships between characters & how they treat each other, through the way the society is presented to us in a positive or negative light.
Bearing all of this in mind, what kind of questions can you be asked?
  • A straightforward question will just ask you to discuss the writer’s viewpoint (element 1).
  • A slightly more complicated question will ask you to focus on your feelings – on how you respond to the view offered by the writer/director (element 2).
  • A variation on a simple vision question is one which asks you to discuss the writer’s view and look at how this is communicated to the reader (a combination of element 1 and element 3).

As I mentioned above, the gv&v changes during the course of any text. One exercise I did with my class was to draw up a graph – see photo above. The vertical axis went from tragic at the bottom to blissfully happy at the top. The horizontal axis went from the beginning (on the left) to the end (on the right) of the text. Then we picked maybe eight key moments and plotted them on the graph. This gave us a clearer sense of how the gv&v changed, ebbed and flowed over the course of the text from beginning to end. However it is a little simplistic – you need to offer a more complex discussion  than “happy/sad” (nostalgia, longing, frustration, injustice, tragedy, triumph, humour are all more specific words that spring to mind!) AND you need to think about whether the author offers you a positive, fond and uplifting view of human beings or a deeply pessimistic indictment of human beings’ flaws and foibles. Think about the writer/director’s vision of the society the characters inhabit. What decisions has the writer/director made as to how the text begins and ends. Does the story begin and end at the same point (as in Babylon)? Have the characters achieved anything in the intervening period? Is the text a gradual journey towards enlightenment and self-fulfillment? Or does everything end badly, despite the characters best efforts to achieve happiness?
Because the concept is quite multi-faceted, try to simplify your overall essay structure.
Compare the beginning gv&v of each text.
Then compare gv&v about a third of the way in.
Next compare gv&v about two thirds of the way in.
Finally compare the gv&v of the endings.
And of course the most important thing is to tie them together in the way that I described in the post “Cracking the comparative“.
Hopefully that will clarify things somewhat!

15 Responses to What the heck is GV&V ?

  1. R Thompson says:

    Thank you!!!! This is the clearest explanation of how to tackle this question.

  2. Chichi says:

    When writing the comparative do I have to use the full title or can I abbreviate it? The texts I am studying are my sister’s keeper,sive & 32A but I just want to abbreviate my sister’s keeper to “MSK”

    • You should absolutely abbreviate to save time, just make sure you indicate your intention in the introduction as follows: the film 32A, the play Sice and the novel My Sister’s Keeper (henceforth MSK)…

  3. Chichi says:

    Thank you 🙂

  4. […] of any text. One exercise with a class could be to draw up a graph (As done by Ms E. O’Connor here.) The vertical axis went from tragic at the bottom to blissfully happy at the top. The horizontal […]

  5. lilo says:

    What advice would you lend to someone(me) who writes at a painfully slow speed?

    • You have my sympathy & my empathy. I write pretty slowly, always did. I never wrote ‘a lot’ in exams so I always tried to compensate by ensuring that what I wrote was really high quality. I found if I knew my stuff really really well I’d get more written in the time available. stick religiously to your timings. You are better off writing short essays but answering every question (2 and a half pages for poetry and Macbeth, four pages for comparative, half a page for unseen poetry) than writing 2 long essays (4 pages for Macbeth, 5 and a half pages for comparative) but nothing for poetry, studied or unseen, cause you’ve run out of time. Go into the exam having condensed everything down to the bare bones in the knowledge that you write slowly and won’t get as much written as everyone else. DO NOT go in there will reams of long essays that you know you can’t possibly get down on the page in the time given. Hope that helps. And my sympathies – I remember the pain of this all too well!

  6. MikeSD says:

    Is the order of events very important in a comparative essay?

    • It can be difficult to stick to a chronological account because something at the start of one text might compare to something at the end of another. However, don’t begin at the end if that makes sense. And finish with the end of the texts. Other than that, don’t stress about it too much.

  7. Matt says:

    How would you answer the question. The general vidion and view point of texts can be quite differnt or very similar. In light of the above statement compare the general vision and viewpoint of at least 2 texts

    the texts I have studied ane
    Im not scared
    a dolls house
    and how many miles to bayblon.
    Thanks

    • I’d pick two of my three texts, then I’d select moments from the two texts which mirrored each other emotionally or socially or culturally or in terms of their impact on me the reader/viewer. I’d also select moments which were very different emotionally or socially or culturally or in terms of their impact on me. Then I’d compare them. Remember also that how the text BEGINS and how the text ENDS is very important for establishing the GV&V and for leaving a lasting impression of the GV&V… hope that helps!

  8. David says:

    Should a text’s v&v ultimately shaped by its outcome or should relationships, societal background etc. play a greater role?

  9. Jared says:

    What topics relate to GVV such as for example you could dicuss relationships between the characters and whether the text is optimistic or pessimistic?

    • Yep, anything which helps to communicate the author’s vision of the world and the people in it – and within that, how it makes the reader/viewer feel is very significant. But it’s not just ‘does the text make you feel optimistic/pessimistic’ it’s more nuanced – what vision did the author create to make you feel that way (and possibly, what was the author attempting to achieve by having a particularly optimistic / pessimistic ending…?

  10. Mairead says:

    Hi, just wondering how many aspects of gvv should I discuss in my essay? Is opening, development of texts and closing too short, even if I develop them well? Thanks.

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