The Rashomon effect



Victor Hugo is best known for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Les Misérables.” But he was a masterful poet and a fine pen-and-ink artist, as well.

He also was a student of history, working actual events into his novels and dramas. In the 1840s, he had undertaken a history of his own. One day, he observed from his window a scuffle on the street below. It must have been a significant dustup because it was reported in one of the Parisian newspapers. Trouble was, the account was wholly unlike what he had seen. Discouraged by the unreliable nature of observation, he gave up on his history.

The incident came to mind Wednesday evening as the Three Amigos worked their ways through pork roast, pasta with an especially tangy sauce, freshly baked French bread and a cold bottle of Flora Springs 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay.

Amigo No. 1, generally known as The Wine Wizard, had provided the bottle. He asked us what we thought. No. 2 Amigo (Amiga, actually) found it “minerally,” less than satisfactory and tasting of rose hips. Nor could she detect a nose.

No. 3 Amigo, our humble self, liked the chardonnay very much, indeed. Lovely melony fruit, nice trace of French oak, good body.

No. 1 did not care for the wine at all. Viscous and unrefreshing, he said. We had to physically overpower him to keep him from pouring his down the sink. He poured it, instead, into our glass.

How could three experienced wine-o-philes come up with such wildly varying estimations? Admittedly, in our own case, we are to wines what Will Rogers was to strangers: We’ve rarely encountered one that we did not like. But the affair brought to mind “Rashomon Effect,” named after Kurosawa’s great movie in which four individuals have contradictory interpretations of the same event. Was it a good chardonnay? Was it bad? Which of us was correct?

Maybe we all were.

As Hamlet pronounced in Act II, Scene II, “there is nothing either good or bad, but drinking makes it so.”

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]
Stephen Fay

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