In a reading I have enjoyed teaching to my students, the writer states that each person has to know themselves and how their mind works to tap into our creativity systematically. I often like to share the method that works for me which is to contrast two things together. When I was writing my Ph.D thesis, I spent about 2 years in vain just trying to find a new research topic that had not already been published. Fortunately, I finally came upon the idea of contrasting the novel of my study against its film adaptations. By studying the film against the novel, I got a new perspective on my novel and understood the central distinctive features enough to finish my thesis writing quickly. After that, most of my studies have centered upon comparing and contrasting two works, whether they are film adaptations from different times or a literary work and the film adaption. Not only in my studies, but also in my everyday life, I find that contrasting one perspective with another has helped me to become creative, broaden my thoughts and help me understand who I am.
In many works, we can understand a character more thoroughly through contrast with another. In the Bible, Cain has his brother Abel, King David has King Saul, and the disciple Peter is contrasted with disciple John. In literature, writers set “foil” characters so that readers may understand the main character better. Gatsby has Tom Buchanan, and Jane Eyre has Bertha Rochester, the madwoman in the attic, so that readers may distinguish the essence of the characters. Because of the contrast between Tom and Gatsby, we perceive Gatsby’s greatness and Daisy’s limitedness in choosing Tom over Gatsby. While Bertha serves as an obstacle for Jane in marrying Rochester, she gives Jane the opportunity to reach self-realization and assert herself so that she will not become another confined Mrs. Rochester. Recently, I enjoyed watching how contrast is played out in the film Parasite. The contrast between the Kim family with their odorous basement home and the Park family living in their modern beautifully designed house atop a hill serves to emphasize the themes of the film. Setting a foil brings about tension and dynamics as well as draws out and highlights the distinct elements.
This sense of contrast has also played a great part in my own life, in helping me to define myself and my culture. I had a mind-opening experience when I went to the U.S. as an exchange student. The great contrast between the environment I grew up in and the new culture made me understand Korean culture in a new light. Things I had taken for granted, both good and bad, were defamiliarized and I could see things anew. I discovered what had frustrated me before was not important in another culture. This dual way of thinking has helped me to question who I am and to become more flexible. In contrast, the decisions that I regretted making in my life usually lacked discernment due to my single-minded adherence. I believe it is important to think about views other than you are inclined to and then come to a decision even if it is the same as the one you began with.
Contrast has served me to come up with creative ideas and also breakout from my narrow perspective. It is healthy for us to know that our perspective is not the only one but to look at it from a distance. Also, people should consider others’ perspectives if we want ours to be respected as in the golden rule, “Do onto others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).” Contrasting ideas leads us to be insightful, understanding, and discerning.