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In Which Way Society Affects on Us

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The way that society looks at one was important in the past and now but not as much. They would set certain criteria for each role that a person plays. These criteria soon became the norms that people follow. People are placed based on wealth and their social status becomes clear. Choosing to break the norms can cause chaos in the community leaving one devastated. The organization of the society can affect how one looks at themselves. This can be seen in the stories “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather, “Hands” by Sherwood Anderson, “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin, and “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien. The impact of norms and roles can be very negative towards the well being of an individual.

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Wealth is something that people believe is the key to success. Society had categorized everyone based on the amount of money they make which creates high, middle, and lower class. The people in the higher class makes the most, they live leisurely while the lower class either don’t have jobs or are living paycheck to paycheck with nothing to spare. This can change how one look at themselves. In the short story, Paul’s Case, the main character, Paul, struggles to accept his fate as a middle class. The one thing that Paul enjoys is the arts. He works as an usher at Carnegie Hall. Even though he enjoys the theatre, he believes it is a waste if he were study the arts. To him, only the high-class is able to enjoy these things, but he isn’t one of them. This causes him to do things that are unlawful. He is unhappy with the life he lives in, so he hopes to find something better no matter what he has to do. Paul feels as if he is a nobody compared to those in the upper class and he felt the need to lie to his classmates about things that occur while he is at work. What he has now is not enough for him nor is it what he wants. That is why he chooses to steal and run away to a place where he can experience the luxurious living. While he adventures to the city, he was happy and content with that affluent life. The change in his attitude shows how influential society can be when it comes to status. Paul went from looking down at himself to live his best just because he “has” money. According to NYU Langone Health, this story shows how uncaring the school and his parents are towards him being “unable to accept the drab reality of his daily life.” They didn’t give him support nor talk to help and try to understand him but he was ostracized. This is one main reason for him to do what he had done and his suicide. Along with being in the middle class which he abhors, Paul had no one that would actually be there for him and the lack of sense of belonging impacts his view on himself and the world as a whole.

The roles given to each gender seem to be only allowed for that particular one. Stepping out of these gender roles can cause the members of society to have disgusted attitudes and behaviors. Throughout the story, Hands, readers learn about this character, Wing Biddlebaum and his tragic experience as a teacher. He enjoyed teaching the young boys as the school and the students adored him. Wing Biddlebaum or his previous name, Adolf Myers, was affectionate with his students. He would ruffle their hair and caress their shoulders but is there any meaning behind it? One of the boys told their father about it, and he was furious. The father went after Adolf Myers and used violence driving him out of the small town. Myers’ actions were pure. He didn’t mean to make the boys uncomfortable, and it was just his way of showing his affection as a teacher. As NYU Langone Health puts it, the story explains how simple “gestures of innocent caring” by teachers are easily misunderstood. This horrible event led him to be closed off and afraid to touch someone again even a small skin on skin contact can cause him to flinch a little. He had to move and change his name but that can’t even help him move on. What if he was a woman? Would the female teacher be beaten because of the affection? No, the female teacher would be praised for how much she cared for her students and parents would be thankful. This is how society shapes an individual. The norms created for each gender is what caused the sad and lonely life that Adolf Myers has to live in since the incident. He went from an extroverted, kind, and inspiring teacher to a despondent, shaken, and closed off field worker. It feels like he became a completely different person. He doesn’t interact as much as he uses to and he is blaming himself when he didn’t even know what for.

Homosexuality is having romantic feelings for the same gender. This is due to religion, tradition, or just personal opinion. It was once categorized as a mental health problem. In Giovanni’s Room, the main character, David, was homosexual. He first experienced it during a sleep over at his friend, Joey’s house. After they engage in a sexual intercourse, David felt disgusted and ashamed at what he had done. He couldn’t face the fact that he was with someone of the same gender. It caused him to push his friend away and forget about him but not completely. It was hard for David to accept who he truly is so he would have sex with numerous women until he found “the one.” Other characters in the story such as Jacques and Giovanni do not mind themselves being homosexual. They do not care about what others have to say and just be with whoever they want. The difference in perception may be due to the place they reside in. David grew up in America which was “illegal,” and people refuse to accept homosexuality but the others were from Europe. It was more understanding and people do not usually care for others nor who they like. David seems to be closed off and quiet. It is hard for him to look at the fact that it is fine for him to approach Giovanni even when they make each other happy. If he can’t accept being gay does it mean he isn’t accepting himself? There is a part of him that he buried deep inside after sex with Joey causing him to be the way he is now. It may explain why throughout the story David sounds like a very emotionless and introverted character. As stated by Amber Celestin from Bethel College, David seems to be immersed in the “American masculine ideal,” since he quite refuse to embrace his homosexuality. It makes him fear the “femininity” that others would believe he has. This type of ideal is making it difficult for him to fit in since it is not really him but what everyone wants a male to be. This is clearly linked to the gender norms and roles that have been set out by society. Afraid for people to know and judge who he really is even when some encourage him to just be him.

People have different opinion on what is the correct thing to do. Maybe choosing not to do something can leave a major impact or the opposite. Serving in the army and enlisting is very heroic to people. So what happens when one decides that the army isn’t for them? The short story, On the Rainy River, illustrates the life of an individual who doesn’t want to join the army. He decides to run away because it is either joining the war or being judged harshly for not joining. He doesn’t want any of that. This conflict among himself caused him to runaway. He came across a lodge and stayed for a couple of days. The owner helped him out alot even gave him money for what he has worked during the stay. On his last day, he was conflicted while looking towards the Canada border. He feels useless and like a disappointment if he flees away from war but he is not a fan of it to join. In the end, he finally made up his mind and took part in the war. He realized it felt worse to have fought and killed others. In agreement with Eic Diamon and their breakdown of the story, O’Brien “could argue with his fellow citizens of his reasoning” that it is okay for him or any male to not join the war. Since society at that time is very centered around being patriotic and backing up their country, it feels as if it is wrong to turn down fighting in the war. He is upset with himself by accepting the war and he regrets for not have stuck with his first decision.

All the stories show how society can influence one’s perception and their behavior. They share similarities along with some differences. One major common thing that each shares is the negative self-perception that the characters all have. Paul felt like a nobody because of his class, Wing Biddlebaum changed because society cannot overlook gender norms, and David along with O’Brien are no free to express their true feelings without being judged. The characters give readers a very sad and depressed outlook of their personality and the lives that they are in. That is all created because of how society sest up and organizes everyone along with rules. There is nothing wrong with middle class, they can enjoy many things as well. People should be able to decide for themselves without having to worry about what others have to say as long as they are not committing a crime. Each story has their differences. Definitely, everyone’s problem to start off was different. They are also different in that some’s self-perception stayed the same while others changed because of the community. Paul was born into middle class so his desperation for wanting more and trouble characteristic was there since the beginning. While, the others changed due to an incident or event.

In summary, the influence of society on an individual is without a doubt impactful. People look at others and see how they should behave or live and be accepted. These societal structures or organizations can have both positive and negative effects on their lives. The stories analyzed were all explaining the characters and the negative influence that they experienced.

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