Anarchy in the Tenth Grade: Life as a Teenager

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Rochelle Walls
ENGL161 W-101
June 20, 2012

A Teenagers’ Struggles to be Accepted in the World

In “Anarchy in the Tenth Grade”, Graffin describes what life as a teenager is like in Southern California. Throughout the essay, Graffin describes how he uses music as a way of dealing with peer pressure and feelings of alienation from the popular crowd in his high school. Graffin’s explanations of teenage life in the 1970’s demonstrates the symbolic interactionism concept devised by George Herbert Mead and how symbolic interactionism helps us interact with others within our subculture just as Graffin interacts with others within the punk subculture. Mead shows us that by using symbols, we are able to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see ourselves as that person sees us. As a child, Graffin is forced to move cross-country from Wisconsin to Southern California. He doesn’t understand the lifestyle of California and, throughout his childhood, feels like an outcast. By the style of his clothes and hair, he sees himself as a geek and ends up hanging out with kids in that social group. When Graffin turns 14, he discovers punk music and a community of people who use music to describe their confusion. The more he listens to this new music style, the more he wants to be a part of it. At the age of 15, Graffin changes his hair style and color, as well as his clothing style. Graffin’s relationship to the punk music lifestyle describes Mead’s symbolic interactionism. Mead explains, “social experience is the exchange of symbols.” Mead calls all symbolic interaction a process of taking the role of the other. Graffin’s punk nature makes him feel powerful in high school, but, at the same time, it also scares him. He states, “I began to feel that there was a way to deal with my disillusionment: through questioning and challenging, not conforming and accepting.” This not only made him understand human interaction, but also made him feel less compassion...
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