Societal expectations is a common theme in the books "A House of My Own" by Sandra Cisneros and "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell. When Cisneros informed her father of her need to live alone as she did in college, her "looked at her with the eye of a rooster before it attacks" (Cisneros 12). He did not approve of this because it is not the way the society functioned. Orwell was a Briton, but he did not approve of the oppressive tendencies of the British just because he was British. During the Elephant incidence, the Burmese expected him to shoot the elephant because he was a Briton; hence he had to do it to avoid embarrassment and disappointments. Individuals in society may expect us to uphold certain standards or behave in some prescribed manner. Conforming to people expectations of us and denying ourselves the opportunity and freedom to choose what we want results in conflict. Family members and the community we live in may not be happy with our choices because it is different from what they are accustomed to. Eliminating societal expectations and embracing social change is the key to personal development.
Our complex society is full of societal expectations that influence how we behave. For instance, in a typical society where male dominance is common, there is an expectation that the woman will submit to the expectations by performing tasks such as cleaning. The male can only perform tasks that they believe are masculine for instance, fixing electrical appliances and repairing furniture around the house. This behavior is what the society expects, and if either of the genders starts performing tasks meant for the other gender, the society will raise questions. Violating societal expectations can lead to hatred and even isolation from family and community functions.
Sandra Cisneros violated societal expectations when she couldn't adhere to the expectations of the society concerning the role of women. In her society, women have been relegated to the role of weaving baskets and collecting lace. When she was still living with her father, words such as "wash me," "you ought," and "lazy" depressed her (Cisneros 13). All she wanted was a place where she can be quiet and write. However, a career in writing was very much dominated by males. Her ideas about living alone so that she can write shocked her father. He felt that her time in the college had a negative influence on her behavior.
On the contrary, it is evident that college opened up her mind. The expectations of society no longer imprisoned her. The society expected her to live in her father's house until marriage. However, she went against society's expectations and moved into the basement of the building where her eldest brother lived in the past. Later, she moved into her own house which was the haven that would propel her writing career.
When society expects a certain group to behave in a certain manner, it creates a limitation to the development of the group. Cisneros' mother does not oppose her ideas of moving out of the house. She regrets that the same societal expectations prevented her from becoming the person she wanted. In effect, she has always supported the actions of her daughter. Social change occurs when people go against the norm in society or societal expectations. It involves a significant change in the cultural values and behavioral patterns of a society. In the book "Shooting an Elephant," societal expectations make George Orwell live a life that he is not proud of. He kills an elephant to avoid making a fool of himself. George secretly sides with the Burmese. He became conscious of the real intentions of the despotic government after the elephant incident.
Both the society and the government expected him to behave in a certain manner because he was a police officer. Behaving differently would alienate him from society. He gives us an insight into the need of human beings to gain acceptance. When the elephant kills a man, the people expect that George would kill the elephant. Initially did not want to kill the elephant. But, when the elephant killed the man, he felt can now shoot it without living with guilt because he is legally allowed to kill it (Orwell 137). From the narrative, it is evident that society makes George behave in a manner which he would not under different circumstances. Therefore societal expectations can lead to social change when we have to behave differently to please others.
Falling into the traps set by society makes people live a life that is foreign. They allow people to influence their choices to please them. Expectations are difficult to overcome. Unfortunately, living by the expectations of others pleases everyone except the person that matters. People develop frustrations when they do not meet the expectations of others. Reframing the expectations of people is crucial. There is a suggestion by scholars that societal expectations are external barriers to the achievement of the goals of an individual. Self-concept about the career development of women was a major subject of discussion in early literature. Research studies focused on the effect of self-concept, self-esteem, and self-confidence on the development of women. Some researchers writing from the perspective of social psychology studied an integral view of self.
A summary of these studies on career women showed many factors that aided the career development of women. These factors include self-esteem, background, education, and lifestyle. Self-esteem and education seemed to be the most crucial among these factors. Self-esteem and education can be a major factor in standing firm for the beliefs that one has towards success. Education enlightens people to be more conscious and have more choices concerning what they want to pursue in life. After college, there were numerous career paths that Cisneros could pursue. She did not feel confined to the tasks of most uneducated women in her society. Therefore, education has a major role to play for women who want to overcome societal expectations.
Regarding education's impact, there is a possibility of using it as a tool of empowerment - social change results from transformative actions aimed at individuals in society. Educated reformers have emphasized values like equality of women, eliminating social customs, and the elimination of caste restrictions. Education has been the channel for teaching liberal philosophy and removal of ignorance. Empowering women is the most crucial means of attaining equality of women. This has been emphasized since the National Policy on Education of 1986 (Sanford 38). Strategies for attaining these objectives were laid down and included eliminating obstacles to women education, initiating programs to aid women's development, and elimination of sex stereotypes in educational institutions.
The role of education, therefore, is to facilitate changes in the social environment as well as the foster positive social values (Sanford 45). These changes are important in eliminating stereotypes concerning the type of roles that certain groups in society should perform. George Orwell left Burma to live and write in Paris when he could not persevere the oppressive nature of the British colonial forces. He seemed to be enlightened even though he did not receive a university education. His ability to make independent choices that are very different from what society expects is a product of education. Even though he made a difficult choice in killing the elephant to avoid embarrassment, he knew that there was a conflict between his dreams and the expectations of people. He chose to quit the police forces and start writing in Paris (Orwell 133).
Overall, it is evident that we must overcome societal expectations if we want social change to occur. Cisneros overcame social expectations by choosing to leave his father's house after college and focus on building a career in writing. Orwell was different from other Britons in that he did not support their oppressive policies towards the Burmese. However insignificant their actions are, they were enlightened enough to understand that a conflict between societal expectations and their dreams can lead to depression and regret in the future. Therefore, societal expectations should not define the path that people pursue in life.
Cisneros, Sandra. A house of my own: Stories from my life. Vintage, 2015.
Orwell, George. "Shooting an elephant." New Writing 2 (1936): 501-06.
Sanford, Nevitt. Self and society: Social change and individual development. Routledge, 2017.
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Literary Analysis Essay on "A House of My Own" by Sandra Cisneros and "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell. (2022, Nov 10). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/literary-analysis-essay-on-a-house-of-my-own-by-sandra-cisneros-and-shooting-an-elephant-by-george-orwell
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