An Analysis Of John Berger

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Pictures Don’t Always Paint a Thousand Words

John Berger makes a bold statement in saying “ No other relic or text from the past can offer such a direct testimony about the world which surrounded other people at other times. In this respect images are more precise and richer than literature,'; (Ways of Reading, 106). This statement is very untrue. Literature has been the focal point of all modern learning.. Literature lets the reader feel what the author is thinking, not just see it as you would in a painting. This can be proven after reading Berger ‘s descriptions of paintings in Ways of Seeing and also reading parts of literature written by W.E.B Dubois.
When a reader reads literature it is easy to feel what the author is writing about . An author’s job is to show the reader his point of view. He does this by describing things, offering opinions, and making conclusions. By doing this the author can get his point across and the reader can hopefully relate to him. A good author will also paint his own picture by words. He will leave the reader with a picture in his head of what he is describing. A writer’s words are stronger than the stroke of an artist.
An example of this could be from W.E.B Dubois ‘s Of the Meaning of Progress . DuBois paints us a picture of his life . On page 225, DuBois describes a child , he says “ Thenie was on hand early ,-a jolly, ugly ,good-hearted , who slyly dipped snuff and looked after her little bow legged brother.'; This description is something a picture can not describe. A picture cannot significantly show someone being jolly or good hearted. These two descriptions are important in learning about the character, thus literature is more precise than images.
Berger’s also states that paintings leave the reader to make many conclusions. Berger is talking about the sitter in a painting by Frans Hals. He says “ It is not possible to produce circumstantial evidence to establish what there relationships were, ';(110). Here he is saying by looking at the picture, there aren’t many valid conclusions one can make. The viewer can see five people and describe what they look like, but he cannot dig any deeper. Any other conclusion a reader would mak...

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...rpretations. Paintings are left open for the viewer to make his own conclusion. An author could send out an essay to a million different people and receive and still have only one interpretation. An author often will write a thesis statement which lets the reader know exactly what the writing will be about.
In conclusion, literature is what has built this nation and world from the ground up. Unfortunately John Berger did not feel this way. Images give us a picture that we can see with our eyes, but images leave out the feelings we see in our heart. Literature gives us the power to see and feel everything. The heart and mind will forever be more powerful than the eye.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.'; Ways of Reading. Ed. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. Bedford/St. Martin’s: New York, Boston, 1999. Pg 104-132.
Du Bois, W.E.B. “Of the Meaning of Progress.'; Ways of Reading. Ed. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. Bedford/St. Martin’s: New York, Boston, 1999. Pg 224-231.

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