lthough the experience his word-paintings seek to convey are just as carefully crafted as Annie Dillard's, Ruskin makes the fact that his eye really controls and constructs the view much less conspicuous than that twentieth-century author does. For example, take the extended passage which begins with the distanced view of the Mediterranean in "The Nature of Gothic," from The Stones of Venice (80-81). "Let us, for a moment, try to raise ourselves even above the level of their [the birds'] flight," Ruskin begins. By apparently including the reader's eye in the movement of the narrative's eye, Ruskin creates the illusion that the vision of the reader is joined with the speaker. This makes it easier to buy into the impression that both parties share the same experience. It is also a means of playing down the constructed nature of this word-painting, as all the information that follows is actually carefully fed to the reader rather than naturally flowing out as a part of his or her experience.
Ruskin directs the eye's view outward for the rest of the passage, pointing out to the reader the external appearance of landmarks and bodies of water. The "we" and "us" returns intermittently to shift the view geographically from the South to the North. However, unlike Dillard, Ruskin does not interrupt the external vision to interject personal feelings; and our attention is again directed away from his role in the scene.
We may see the same careful, but inconspicuous, control and unspoken author's eye in the brief passage that paints the Covent Garden home of Turner. Here again, Ruskin includes the reader into the eye that "sees" the passage, this time actually entering the reader into the scene with such remarks as, "if you stand" and "you may see." By making the reader feel as is she or he has actively entered into the scene, Ruskin tries to produce the impression for the reader that she or he actually experiences — through imagination — what is being described (145).
In a brief passage of word-painting from his tale The King of the Golden River, we can see how Ruskin almost erases consciousness of the author's role in controlling and constructing the eye which "sees" the scene, in the same way he does with the Covent Garden passage. Ruskin makes no mention of an "I" or a subjective presence in the passage; and in fact, generalizes the perspective with the lead-in to this word-painting: "It was, indeed, a morning that might have made any one happy." (63, emphasis added). By ascribing the view to an other, as he did with Covent Garden by using the "you," Ruskin seems to be establishing a degree of objectivity, which would help any claim he makes to having revealed the essential nature of a place or object, which would be true to all parties.
[Other examples of Ruskin's word-painting]
Last modified 2000