3 April 2013
Throughout the course of a person’s lifetime, many factors can affect how that person experiences his or her daily life. Some of these factors are internal such as emotional factors. However, a person is most affected by external factors. One such external factor is a person’s own environment. A person who is put in a cruel and harsh environment can react or develop very differently from a person who grows up in a much grand environment. In 2006, a professor from LeHigh University named Mark H. Bickhard wrote in a paper called How Does Environment Affect the Person?: “An open system in interaction with its environment will proceed in that interaction in accordance with that environment and with the internal organization of the system” (Bickhard 6). Bickhard is saying that a person’s response to an environment has to do with how he or she interacts within it. This effect could alter a person’s perception and how they think. In David Foster Wallace’s speech to the graduating class of 2005 at Kenyon College called “This is Water”, Wallace expresses how a person’s choices and the world around them can affect their perception and how they think. A majority of what Wallace expresses in his speech is revealed in the movie called Barton Fink. In Barton Fink, directed by the Coen Brothers, Barton, who is a well-known author in New York, goes to Hollywood to make a better living for himself. Through the process, he is affected significantly by his environment. Barton Fink’s mysterious and ever-changing environment becomes the source and motivation for his writings but also hinders him in his conquest to discover the life of the “common man” because it blinds him from seeing what is right in front of him and causes him to be trapped in his own mind.
Barton Fink’s paper thin walls manipulate his perception of Charlie “Madman” Mundt because it gives him the wrong sense about Charlie and also bothers him in his writings. When Barton first moves in to the hotel room, he hears laughter and noises from the room next to him. He then calls downstairs to report this situation. Then, Charlie comes to ask if Barton had complained. Barton says, “No I didn’t, I mean, I did call down, not to complain exactly. I was concerned, not that it’s my business, that you might be in some kind of distress. You see, I was trying to work, and well, it was difficult.” Charlie then apologizes and blames it on the thin walls of the hotel (Coen Brothers). The significance of this scene is that it was the thin walls that allow Barton to meet Charlie for the first time. Also, it is very strange for someone to call downstairs to complain about laughter because that usually means happiness. However, Barton complains because it conflicted with the environment that he desired. He had settled in Hotel Earle because he believed that writing comes from inner pain. Therefore, the laughter inside the hotel distracts from his writing and takes him out of the environment that he needs in order to write. In other scenes, what he hears through the thin wall allows him to learn more about Charlie. However, what he gains from this experience can sometimes be distorted. Some noises that he hears are not actually from Charlie, but from another room close to them. From the noises that he hears that are actually from Charlie, he hears laughter. Laughter distorts his image of Charlie because Barton feels that laughter is not a characteristic of a common man when Charlie is actually the perfect definition of a common man. In David Foster Wallace’s speech, Wallace talks about how the same experience can result in different perspectives. Wallace says, “[…] the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience” (Wallace). Wallace tells a story about how two different people can have very...
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