American Literature: Pursuit of Happiness

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Caitlyn Parker
February 21, 2013
American Literature
Essay #1

Pursuit of Happiness Comes in Many Ways
In Ron Carlson’s “The Ordinary Son.” Reed discovers that what he might want in life is different than how his family lives. Reed’s family isn’t your typical scenario. His family is a “famous family,” a group of geniuses not known by their family’s last name but by each individual. The children even called their parents by their first names. They all had their own names, they were known by who they are not by the traditional way of saying, “Oh they are the Landers family.” Geniuses lived not in a typical way of life. They were so focused on making the next big thing, that they never even spent family time together. Their house wasn’t full of fancy decorations, but actually quiet empty. They didn’t even have a dinner table. Geniuses weren’t social lights either, they never had people come over; they didn’t keep up with all the tech savvy stuff either. They had no television or telephone. It was a genius household and it wasn’t to be diminished by electronic gismos.

Reed accepted the way of life as a genius family. He realized that living without a telephone or refrigerator was natural for him. Didn’t even have a car. He was used to not living like society. He accepted this way of life, so simplistic and empty. He noticed that how they lived was very different than other people’s lives. He learned that society mostly was settled around two things: television and soft foods with tons of sugar. Living this way meant you didn’t sweat the small stuff, but to live for the work they do, not for things. They don’t need anything in life, just their brains full of ideas.

Being in a household of geniuses is hard for Reed because he wasn’t like the rest of his family; he’s the odd one out. He didn’t spend his life trying to show off his talents or be an overachiever like his siblings. He would congratulate them and their successes but lived his life in the shadows, behind the fame. At the age of seventeen Reed discovered that the genius gene had skipped him and that at least he was smart but not going to be a genius. He was free. He felt more alive than ever. He figured that now he could do whatever he wanted, he had no obligations. These were the days for big change, to start his life the way he wanted too. He started by getting a job doing landscaping and general cleanup maintenance at a motel. He even bought a car. He began to alienate they ways of how he was raised. Reed began to live like society. He felt he was indifferent and wanted to learn from his peers. He had a friend, named Jeff who educated him on the larger things in life, like the sex department. He finally felt something to live for. He wanted to experience something so foreign to him and understand it.

Reed was satisfied working a job and not taking the high road in life. He worked hard and was making money. He didn’t weigh the little things; he just went with the flow. He didn’t need to live in the fast lane he was happy with a sweaty back and a pocketful of cash. He felt as if he was a genius in his own way. Working at the motel allowed him to start having a little life. He learned new skills and liked being able to stand up on his two feet without his family’s lights shining down on him. Reed was immersing himself in the real world.

In Lorrie Moore’s “Community Life.” Olena wanted to be an English teacher and teach literature but she failed to graduate the study of it. She then transferred to library school where she was taught how to take care of books. She learned to read at a young age and loved to read. Olena learned to speak English and was taught to blend into the community at a young age. Every Saturday she would go to the library to read. She loved to go to the library, she felt as if she could do whatever she wanted. She became very fond of the librarian. Olena valued her mother and thanked her for teaching her English. Her parent’s...
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