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"Lenses" by Leah Silverman
Transcript of "Lenses" by Leah Silverman
Symbol #1: The Stars
"Lenses" by Leah Silverman
By: Ryan Calderon
Prone to becoming emotional
Has dark eyes, tanned skin & white hair, due to exposure to the sun
Live in military base
Have metal eyes
When the story begins, the protagonist, Corinne, reveals that she is a surgeon who must operate on her friend, Grusha. She describes that she lives in a military base in space, which hovers above the Earth. During the narrative, a futuristic war is in progress on Earth. Wounded soldiers travel between the base and Earth to be treated and enhanced, through surgical procedures. Corinne explains that Grusha is a pilot and must replace her eyes with mechanical ones, as the sun blinds human eyes. During the day of Grusha’s surgery, Corinne reminisces about the time she took a black and white photograph of Grusha. Corinne admires Grusha’s expressive eyes and conveys her dismay about taking those eyes away from her. She attempts to compose herself, before entering the pre-operative room. Grusha is waiting in the room; she is sedated and prepared to undergo the surgery. Grusha tries to calm the emotional Corinne and Corinne laments that she must proceed with the operation. Two days later, Corinne returns to evaluate Grusha’s new eyes. Grusha is visibly nervous about seeing her metal eyes for the first time and she appears shocked when she looks in the mirror. The story ends, as Corinne holds Grusha and reassures her that she looks good.
Point of View
The short story’s main dilemma is a Man vs. Self conflict. Before Corinne operates on Grusha, she struggles against her responsibility to proceed with the surgery. In the Pre-Op room, Corinne remarks on Grusha’s beauty and states: “I am glad that has not been taken away from her. I am glad that she is still whole” (Silverman 3). Corinne implies that Grusha will not be the same after the surgery is complete. Therefore, she understands that she will be removing more than Grusha’s eyes. Since Corinne has undergone the operation herself, she is aware that she is about to rob Grusha of part of her humanity. It is evident that her desire to preserve Grusha’s vitality and radiance is at odds with her duty as a surgeon. Thus, she constantly expresses her regret and anguish, throughout the narrative.
“Lenses” is recounted from a first-person, limited omniscient perspective. The entire narrative is told through Corinne’s eyes, from the “I” perspective. Also, the reader only has access to Corinne’s thoughts and emotions. This point of view is well-suited for the story, as the narrative’s central conflict is Corinne’s internal struggle with Grusha’s surgery. For this reason, it is important for the audience to fully understand her feelings and opinions. In addition, this perspective is effective since the reader is not completely aware of Grusha’s perspective on the operation. Therefore, the audience relies on Corinne’s viewpoint and her relationship with Grusha to comprehend Grusha’s characterization.
The narrative is set during an unknown time period in the future. Corinne and Grusha reside in a military establishment near Earth. At the beginning of the story, Corinne peers down on Earth and states that her mother “would never have survived in this world of metal and glass” (Silverman 1). Corinne compares the thriving, green state of Earth to the cold, lifelessness of her residence. The contrast of the story’s setting with the real world mirrors the contrast of its characters with human beings. Like the setting, Corinne and her fellow military members can be considered unnatural, compared to regular people. The soldiers are outfitted with prosthetic limbs and computer chips in their brains, while surgeons and pilots possess mechanical eyes. The metallic, nearly robotic state of the characters is very similar to the metal realm that they inhabit. Therefore, the artificial setting reflects the synthetic, inhuman portrayal of Corinne, Grusha and the other characters.
The short story, “Lenses” by Leah Silverman, explores how people sacrifice their humanity to achieve perfection. Throughout the story, Corinne is conflicted about Grusha’s choice to surgically replace her human eyes. As she contemplates the surgery, Corinne laments that “only the eye of a camera lens will grin back at [her], empty and perfectly reflected” (Silverman 2). Grusha’s metal eyes are superior to her natural ones; her vision will improve drastically and her eyes can be replaced, if they become damaged. Essentially, Grusha will gain the perfect set of eyes, which she will benefit from for the rest of her life. However, her eyes will never be human again; what will remain is a blank, emotionless camera lens. Silverman expresses that humans are characterized by their flaws. When people attempt to perfect their appearance, they are ultimately seen as unnatural. Therefore, Silverman suggests that we lose our human identity, as we conceal our imperfections and emotions. Overall, “Lenses” depicts how people subsequently lose their sense of humanity, as they strive to attain personal perfection.
The stars beyond the military base, as well as, Corinne’s photograph of Grusha are significant symbols in “Lenses”. The stars represent the relationship between humans and the natural world. For instance, as Corinne sits in her chambers, she admires the stars. She tries to reach out to them by “[putting her] hand to the wall, but [she] can never feel any heat through it” (Silverman 1). The naturally formed stars contrast greatly with the man-made, metal walls of Corinne’s room. She is unnerved and disappointed by the fact that the warmth of the stars will never reach her. While Corinne’s world was created to be practical, it is also cold and impersonal. Corinne craves the warmness of the stars, as she longs for the comfort of nature. Therefore, Corinne’s connection to the stars conveys how humans belong in an organic environment.
Alternatively, the picture of Grusha symbolizes Grusha's human emotions and identity. Before Grusha’s surgery, Corinne analyzes the photograph and remarks that “[Grusha’s eyes] look like black liquid in the photo, like wells. The thoughts behind them must be serious” (Silverman 2). The photograph of Grusha reflects her thoughts and emotional depth. Thus, it is the embodiment of her humanity, which is defined by her ability to emote and express herself. Corinne understands that Grusha will never look like this again, once her surgery is completed. Her eyes will be removed and her feelings will no longer be mirrored through them. In effect, Grusha will lose her human identity, as the person from the photograph will also be lost forever.
Visualization of the Setting
In the film, Minority Report, the replacement of the main character's eyes symbolizes his enlightenment to the idea of fate. Similarly, the Grusha's new eyes enlighten her about her loss of humanity.
"The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection."
"The eyes are the window
to your soul."
The tone of “Lenses” can be described as brooding and regretful. The atmosphere of the story is heavily influenced by Corinne’s narrative voice. For example, prior to the operation, Corinne mourns Grusha’s loss of humanity, by exclaiming: “Thinking of that makes me want to weep. Her eyes sparkle like black water” (Silverman 3). Corinne’s voice is very sincere, throughout the story. As a result, she expresses herself with great emotion and intimacy with the reader. The audience can feel a sense of foreboding and remorsefulness, as Corinne conveys her conflicted feelings about Grusha’s surgery. All in all, Corinne’s evocative descriptions of Grusha and her blatant guilt help build the ominous tone of the narrative.
"Perfection is just...boring. Perfect is what's real or natural; that is beauty"
CRYENGINE. Web. 5 Sept. 2015.
"How Accurate Were Minority Report’s Technology Precogs?" Wired.com.
Conde Nast Digital. Web. 5 Sept. 2015.
"Once Upon Her Brown Eyes." WritersCafe.org. Web. 5 Sept. 2015.