The Structure and Values of Society Is Able Shape and Influence People and Their Ideas

Topics: Short story, The Lottery, Stoning Pages: 6 (2341 words) Published: February 23, 2012
The Structure and Values of Society is Able Shape and Influence People and Their Ideas

The subject of society and its influence is one that has been lamented and explored by many an author. It is not a widely disputed concept that society drives the thought and behavior of individuals within that society. In Both Nadine Gordimer’s “Once Upon a Time” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” are useful examples where society is the driving force behind the actions of the characters within the stories. This is highlighted by the existence of leaders or icons, usually only one or two in the whole society that had the mental strength and breadth to think in ways outside of the ordinary for the society. They would be perceived as controversial within their society historically, until they managed to provide a thought process so strong, and with such an accessible logic, that it overcame the ideals of that historic society by implanting those beliefs in the thoughts and behaviors of a material volume of society members. The “Lottery” and “Once upon a time” show this throughout the fictional writing. Through these stories, those outside of the norms, and those from the society with the benefit of hindsight, can identify the imperfections and effects of that historic society, but those within it at the time are unable to act independently from its ideals. Gorimer and Jackson use this loss ability to voice personal opinions through society with their stories “Once Upon a Time” and “The Lottery.”

The examination of the effect of societies on individuals behaviors has been the cornerstone of the works of Nadine Gordimer, whose work has focused on the effect of apartheid on the lives of South Africans and the moral and psychological tensions of life in a racially-divided country, which she often wrote about by focusing on oppressed non-white characters, a theme explored in her short story,”Once Upon a Time”. Froelich and Halle note in their short story criticism “Explicator” that “as she became more publicly committed to the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s, her criticism turned more overt, and, interestingly, her literary approach, always essentially realistic, became more experimental.” “Once Upon a Time” epitomizes this new stage of Gordimers’ writing. Goridmer coveys in this story how a well to do, white family strive to live the ‘ideal’ lifestyle in their affluent suburb. Gordimer discusses the linkage between the intruder and their worth “….that the feared intruders use to cut the supposedly burglar-proof bars and steal everything they can, including a bottle of single-malt scotch, a loss "made keener by the property owner's knowledge that the thieves wouldn't even have been able to appreciate what it was they were drinking.” The townspeople already show a great disrespect and through whisperings and gossip of riots outside the cities and robberies and stabbings within it, they wrote on their security walls ‘YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.’ But as Gordimer tells in her story, “every week there were more reports of intrusion: in broad daylight and the dead of night, in the early hours of the morning, and even in the lovely summer twilight – a certain family was at dinner while the bedrooms were being ransacked upstairs.” As Shurgot points out, ‘She then describes a terrible fear of being attacked, for she has ‘the same fears as people who ... take ... precautions’ such as burglar bars and guns under pillows. Two neighbors have been attacked recently: a woman murdered and ‘an old widower ... knifed by a casual laborer he had dismissed without pay.’” They apply more security measures until in the end all their precautions backfire. “Finally, they build the ultimate protective fence… within they will live securely in concentration camp style—until the fence grotesquely mangles not an intruder but their own son.” (Froelich and Halle) In the end, society’s pressure to tighten security and protect themselves from the ever daunting unknown...
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