** Please note: This blog post was written in whole or in part as an assignment for a class that I was taking. If you decide to use some of my work in your own assignments, please give credit where credit is due and cite your source! Thanks :) **
For this assignment we were required to choose a novel or story that we were familiar with and skim through a short section of the text to locate descriptions that related to the senses we are learning about. We were then requested to answer some questions about the descriptions in regards to which sense it was related to, which properties were described, and how the description added to my experience of the story.
The story that I chose is part of a series of books called The Wheel of Time, written by Robert Jordan. While all the books are so heavily detailed that some people don’t even like reading them, I enjoy the details which seem to pull me into the world of this story. I chose to look through book 1, “The Eye of the World,” to gather some descriptive phrases pertaining to the senses that we are studying about. This is a science fiction/fantasy story about a group of friends whose home village is unexpectedly attacked by attacked by evil creatures forcing them to leave their homes and set out to find a safe place to figure out what is going on. The story is about a cyclical, created world where male and female magic are supposed to work together but long ago in the cycle the Dark One tainted the male half of the magic. In the current day, certain females, called Aes Sedai, are the only ones able to wield the magic, the One Power, safely, and men who can wield it are “gentled” to keep them from destroying the world. The story continues through a series of what will be 14 books with the main characters splitting into different groups at different points in time and having different adventures and tragedies befall them, as they learn what the Wheel has in store for them.
As I mentioned previously, the books are richly detailed. Skimming through a few chapters gave me plenty of choices to relate to the senses. Here are a couple of lines that I found regarding the senses. These quotes are related to vision, which is a property of the eyes. The eye works because light enters through the cornea, the iris, and the pupil of the eye and finally through the lens. The lens passes an image to the retina and is transmitted to the rods and cones which are what receive the light and send the picture to our brains. The rods allow black and white vision, while the cones allow us to see in color. In this section of the book, the party is riding on horseback through a dense fog in the dead of night, in a forest. Each of the quotes are related to not being able to see very well with very little moonlight and with the fog obscuring objects outside of a few feet.
“Moonlight filtering through bare branches gave only enough illumination to fool his eyes into thinking they saw what was underfoot.” (p 98)
This first quote can be explained by the rods in the eye only allowing the person to see only enough of shapes to avoid tripping, and not even enough then to see clearly what was underfoot.
“Houses loomed in the fog on all sides, houses strangely tall to Rand’s eye.” (p 176)
“A few more windows than before showed a light, but the thick mist turned most of them to dim patches, and as often as not that hazy glow, hanging in the gray, was all that was visible. Other houses, revealing a little more, seemed to float on a sea of cloud or to thrust abruptly out of the mist…” (p 178)
These quotes are regarding visual perception and illusion. The houses appeared to be taller than what Rand would expect because of the fog obscuring the base of the houses. They appeared to be hanging or floating even though he knew that they were not. Rand used perceptual clues and experience to be able to determine that the shapes looming out of the fog were houses.
“Only the rush of air past his face and the gather and stretch of the horse beneath him told him he was moving at all.” (p 176)
This quote is not related to vision but to skin senses and kinesthesis. Rand was able to feel the wind on his face and feel the horse he was riding to determine that he was moving. He could feel that the horses legs and flank were moving in such a way that told him that the horse was moving forward. Putting these senses together allowed him to perceive that he was moving.
I find that details in stories are what bring the stories to life. When I am reading a novel that has a lot of description, I get pulled into the book in my head. Having descriptions such as these allows me to get a sense of what is going on, provides me with a better sense of what the character is seeing, feeling, and doing, and allows me to feel more like I’m right there in the middle of things. I mentioned in my description of the book that many people find there are too many descriptive paragraphs and that they didn’t like that in a book. Many people have told me that they didn’t enjoy the book because the descriptions took away from the story and the plot. I feel completely the opposite. Without descriptions that give our own senses something to perceive, it feels like just reading words on a page.
Jordan, Robert. The Eye of the World. Tor Books. The Wheel of Time. Tom Doherty Associates LLC: New York, 1990. 98+.