“A caring and supportive family is the main building block of a community.” Discuss.
Family can be defined as a group of people who have blood ties and who usually live under one roof forming a small community. The traditional concept of this would be a man and a woman who have a legal bond living under one roof with their offspring but when circumstances alter this arrangement the subsequent arrangement that arises does not make obsolete the bonds and relationships and the influence each member of that unit has on each other to form values and ethics that would contribute towards the building of communities. As such a caring and supportive family is the main building block of a community as it helps to mould individuals into positive social characters and personalities who contribute towards building a healthy community. However sometimes even though the family is caring and supportive the individual may fail to become one who contributes positively towards building a healthy community, on the other hand there may be individuals who come from dysfunctional families but are able to contribute towards the community because of other factors.
The texts that will be used are The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Muriel’s Wedding directed by P J Hogan and The Family by Anne Deveson.
Firstly a caring and supportive family moulds an individual into a positive social character by building self-esteem and by guiding and helping the individual to realise the potential he or she has.[ts] They may even sacrifice to ensure that the individual is taken care off and disruptions to the individual’s life is minimised thus helping the person face traumatic experiences and eventually develop in them a social conscience to reach out to help the community. On the other hand, when there is no care and support that ensures that the welfare of the individual is secured than the individual may feel cut adrift and may lose all their self-esteem and feel that they are a useless member of society and as such may only focus on their own needs and become insensitive to the needs of others and end up not contributing towards building a better community. This can be seen from the characters in the novel ‘The Outsiders’ where the two older brothers, Darry and Sodapop, sacrifice their futures and take on the responsibility to hold the family unit together to give stability to the life of their younger brother Ponyboy. They do this so that Ponyboy has the opportunity to fulfil his potential by having a stable home, guidance and support to excel in his studies so that he can have a better life. Pony is eventually able to weather the storms that he faces because his brothers stick by him and support him emotionally and physically. When Pony gets hurt saving the children from the burning church and is sent to the hospital, Darry is at the hospital waiting for him even though it is Pony’s unthinking actions that got Pony into trouble. Darry does not give up and retreat from Ponyboy. In the same token Sodapop does his best to try and help Darry and Pony understand each other. Darry and Sodapop are there for Pony all the time and Darry nurses and cares for him like a mother when Pony collapses after Johnny and Dally’s death. Darry’s perseverance in caring for Ponyboy and Sodapop’s emotional support and understanding eventually manages to shake Pony out of his stupor and depression and he begins to understand his brothers and their needs. This in turn helps Pony to take a grip of his life and come to terms with the grief and trauma of losing loved ones and to move on with his life. It is then that he is able to see that he has a social responsibility to tell people the story of Johnny and Dally so that they can understand boys who live on the wrong side of the cities better. Thus the care and support of his family is what helps Pony through his traumatic experiences and moulds him to be a person who is able to care about others and awakes in him a social conscience which helps to build a strong community.
On the other hand Muriel from the movie ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ has little care and support that helps her develop her potential. Her family is dysfunctional. Her father is a corrupt politician who bribes and takes bribes. He is also very loud and bullies his wife and children and constantly makes derogatory remarks about them and especially Muriel all the time. Added to this he also commits adultery and blatantly brings his lover into family gatherings. Muriel does not get any form of guidance from her mother, Betty, who is weak and meek and blinds herself about the state of her marriage by ignoring the blatant adulterous relationship her husband is having with Deidre. Betty seems to cope with these problems by retreating and blurring out details she can’t face. This lack of guidance and bad examples in Muriel’s family results in moulding Muriel into some one who has low self-esteem as well as ethics. She does not think twice about using the blank cheque her mother gives her by mistake and uses all the money in the account in pursuing her own gratification by going to the same resort as her so called friends. Seeing how her Father makes use of friendships for his own gains, Muriel too, later, uses Rhonda’s friendship and support, when she runs away to Sydney, to fulfil her dreams of having a life similar to an Abba song. When Rhonda gets ill, she promises Rhonda to be there for her but eventually dumps Rhonda when she realises that Rhonda will not be able to walk. She deserts her friend who is in need at that point without a tinge of guilt and does not seem to be bothered by the fact that she has betrayed a truly sincere friend. Thus it is clear that Muriel is such a selfish character because of the lack of support and care from her family that have moulded her into a person who could only care for herself and her needs, without any social conscience to look to the needs of another which thus makes her an individual that would not be able to contribute towards building community.
A caring and supportive family can also help an individual to develop positive personality traits such as the ability to overcome debilitating circumstances such as poverty and an unstable childhood and take his or her place in the community. On the other hand if the family is dysfunctional, the individual may not be motivated to do anything to get out of the rut and make something of himself or herself by getting a job and contributing positively to the building of the community. We can see how positive family support helps Anne Deveson from the passage titled The Family to learn to deal with her debilitating circumstances of poverty and an unstable childhood. From what she writes we learn that she and her family go through very hard times with points in their life when her parents could barely keep food on their table let alone enjoy the luxury of going for a movie. They have to constantly move and have to share their homes with other families. At one point the family even faces physical separation, yet we know that Anne eventually becomes a successful writer despite this background. Anne herself tells that she was able to do so because no matter how hard life became she did not lack warmth affection and loving. Through all their difficulties the parents always communicate as best they can with the children and persevere in keeping touch with them although they have problems sharing and talking to each other as can be seen at the time Anne’s father would visit her on weekends even though they could not communicate with each other. Anne’s mother’s example also taught her how to be resilient and to cope with problems by focusing on something else. Thus Anne learns never to give up and to face life head on to take her destiny into her own hands and contribute towards the building of a community.
Conversely, when a family is dysfunctional, it is difficult for an individual to develop positive character traits that will see them contributing positively towards the building of a community. This can be seen in the character of Muriel’s brother in the movie, Muriel’s Wedding. From the beginning of the movie this character is portrayed as a jobless lout, who sits around watching television all day and orders his mother to do things for him following his father’s example. He also faces verbal abuse from his father who seems to drum into him that he is a useless individual and thus behaves like one too. He, in no way contributes to his family or society. In fact he too becomes a bully like his father and verbally abuses his mother at a time when she is facing emotional trauma because her husband has left her. This insensitivity is probably a catalyst that leads to Betty’s suicide. From this it can be seen that an individual’s home life influences the individual’s character as can be seen in the case of Muriel’s brother who gets no proper guidance from either mother or father. Added to this, he is only exposed to negative behaviour and examples from the father which results in a lazy and loutish character who has no respect for any one not even his own mother. Thus making him an individual who does not seem to have any motivation and interest to make something of himself and so is unable to contribute towards building community.
While families that are caring and supportive help individuals to become people who contribute positively towards building a healthy community, there are also times when they may fail because of other factors that also influence the individual. In the same token an individual may come from a dysfunctional family but may be able to contribute positively towards the community because of other factors. This can be seen in the case of Randy from the novel the outsiders. Randy is influenced by the Soc’s and especially his best friend Bob. He joins them in rabble rousing and jumping Greasers. He is also one of those who were with Bob on the night Johnny was jumped and beaten so badly that it caused Johnny to carry a kinfe. As Randy later shares with Ponyboy it becomes obvious that Randy comes from a decent family and one who stands by him in trouble. He is given proper guidance by his father to tell the truth at the inquiry into Bob’s death. From this it can be seen that before Bob’s death Randy had been a destructive person and joined all the acts of aggression and violence of his group despite a family who was loving and caring. At that point of his life Randy was a person who was not capable of contributing towards the building of a community because he just followed his peers without discerning right from wrong. He did not do anything to prevent Bob from doing things that caused harm to others and which eventually cost Bob his life.
On the other hand there are also times when the family is dysfunctional and yet the individual develops positive character traits and is able to contribute towards building society. This can be seen in the case of Johnny whose family is dysfunctional. He is abused and neglected and finds shelter with his Greaser friends who do their best to be there for him and support him. At first Johnny’s world is bleak and so negatively impacted by his home life that he shares with Ponyboy that he feels like committing suicide. But after the incident of his killing Bob and running away with Ponyboy, Johnny begins to realise that life can be good. At this point in his life it is his Greaser friends who stand by him. This prompts him to decide to return and face the consequences of his actions rather than drag Ponyboy down with him and become fugitives from the law. This ability to discern and make a life giving decision leads him to take responsibility that he and Ponyboy may have caused the fire and thus go into the burning church to rescue the children. Johnny thus gives his life so that these children may have a chance for a better life than himself. Thus despite coming from a dysfunctional family, Johnny makes decisions that help him achieve personal growth and contribute towards the community because he receives care and support from his friends.
In conclusion a caring and supportive family provides an individual with the platform to build self-esteem and realise their potential as well as develop positive personality traits. In this way they can contribute towards the growth of the community. In the same token, despite the fact that they may have a caring and supportive family, ther e are individuals who may fail to contribute positively towards a community and those with dysfunctional families who may end up contributing positively towards a community due to other factors. But the bottom line is that a caring and supportive family is the main building block of the community for we need positive individuals to help influence those who may come from dysfunctional families.