The life of every human being is riddled with certain realities that are often quite complex. Depending on each stage in life, every human being is expected to behave in a certain manner so as to fit in the society. However, the reality at each stage may present a nightmare since it is not the delusional or imagined state that takes control, but the actual state of affairs (Ekanem 389). I remember when I got into the rigors of teenage, I thought that this was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I was no longer a child. However, having been fed with so much information on what to expect and how to behave, I felt that I was not only ripe but also up to the task. Although I was a little nervous about making new friends, I had no choice. I also had the challenge of balancing my social life, school, and extra-curricular activities. Sometimes, the life was too challenging and the expectations too high. Therefore, when I met Peters, I knew I was in the right company. Peters introduced me to some other friends of his who studied Political Science in a nearby college. Although these friends were older than me, I felt this sense of security and maturity whenever I was around them. Interestingly, I became closer to them than to Peters. It was an interesting company that introduced me to all kinds of escapades, and because I did not want to be the odd one out, I conformed within no time, at the expense of my studies. My grades were fast deteriorating, and the only people who noted that were my parents who gave me undue pressure to perform. One day, one of the clique members, Emily, picked her father's car and we went out. We had a good time; danced and had drinks. I had already conformed to such habits as I sought to conform. Late into the night, Emily had to drive us home amid excitedly singing and shouting loudly. Unfortunately, our car had a horrible head-on collision with an oncoming car. All I remember is that Peters flew through the windscreen while Emily gave an extremely loud wail as the car rolled several times. Those of us who were lucky to survive still bear the scars of that horrible accident. Today, I am wiser. I know that the power of seduction to conform was too overwhelming for me. In many cases, teenagers will do whatever it takes to please others, other than for their good. Interestingly enough, some of them will sheepishly lead themselves into trouble; even while aware that they are getting into trouble. This is just how complex the human reality is. This paper analyzes Joyce Oates' story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been and Janice Kirikitani's poem Suicide Note in the context of the complex human reality. The two pieces represent the complex human reality so accurately in terms of the compulsion to conform that they undoubtedly mirror what happens in the contemporary society.
To begin with, they present a human being as one who is often out to please others. The feel that they must please them so as to be accepted in the society they live in, irrespective of the discomforts that these processes of conforming cause. This is referred to as the absurd conformity (Schall, Jacqueline, Tanner & Vichet 463). In both pieces, the main characters get in trouble as they seek to please others. The girl, a college student in Janices poem Suicide Note seeks to please her parents who do not seem to recognize her hard work. Despite doing her best, she regrets that it is not worthy enough to please her parents hence apologizes to them thus: Ive worked very hard,/not good enough/harder, perhaps to please you(7-9). The parents have very high expectations, and because this girl cannot meet them, she decides to commit suicide to escape reality. On the other hand, the main character, Connie, in Joyce Oates' story, 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,,' is always moving in a group and likes hanging out with teenagers that are older than her so as to please her friends. Despite her mothers admonition, she conforms to a group that is said to have been familiar sights, walking around the shopping plaza in their shorts and flat ballerina slippers that always scuffed the sidewalk, with charm bracelets jingling on their thin wrists; they would lean together to whisper and laugh secretly if someone passed who amused or interested them(1). They are said to have gone to the movies and at times to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out (1). It is at such places that an older boy, Arnold Friend, spots Connie, later shows up at her house and kidnaps her. In an attempt to please others, the two characters in these pieces, therefore, get themselves in trouble. This represents the complex nature of human reality. Human beings will suffer for others happiness, other than their own (Ekanem 389). The pain that the college student and Connie undergo is what characterizes the life of many teenage girls all over the world.
Also, many human beings do not believe in themselves, no matter how well-endowed they are. They suffer from low self-esteem as they go through the pressure to conform. Human beings view their counterparts as better hence often seek approval from others as a way of assuring themselves that they are ahead of the pack (Schall et al. 465) This is accurately represented in the two pieces. In Oates' story, the main character, Connie, likes to be told that she is beautiful. Although she likes to view herself as the best, with her mother even warning her against gawking at herself, she is said to have had this quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right(1). She does not trust her beauty at all and at times, she feels that she should die because, apparently, her mother reprimands her instead of recognizing her beauty. On the other hand, the girl in Janice's poem embarrassed with her grades that she wishes she were a boy with broad shoulders and strong arms so as to swagger through life/muscled and bold and assured(17-18). The character views boys as better and thinks that if she were one, it would be the only way out of her misery. So disappointed is she that even in death, she foresees her weakness and contemptuously refers to her body as bird bones (58); an aspect of low self-esteem. The portrayal of dissatisfaction and low self-esteem is a true reflection of human nature. Dissatisfaction is what leads to weird actions as people endeavor to gain approval from others (Ekanem 389). While Connie attempts to gain approval of her beauty from any willing person, the college girl wishes to gain approval from her parents since she thinks that as a girl who underperforms in school, she is not good enough. The two characters fail to realize that there are other ways of appreciating themselves instead of whining all the time and getting stressed out for no apparent reason. This madness finally lead them into trouble: the girl commits suicide while Connie becomes a victim of the villain, Arnold Friend, who is obviously going to rape and murder her.
In conclusion, the complex human reality is accurately represented in the two pieces: Joyce Oates's story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been and Janice Kirikitani's poem Suicide Note.' If the human being is not seeking the approval of others, he is busy pleasing them in an attempt to conform thus fit in a clique. This is the complex nature of human beings. Interestingly, most people seek the happiness of others at the expense of theirs despite the consequences, which they are fully aware of. The two pieces, therefore, clearly demonstrate that choices, whether made unwittingly or not, have consequences.
Ekanem, Barrister Samuel Asuquo. "Science and Human Nature: A Complex Dynamics of Reality". Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 4.2 (2013): 389. Mediterranean Center of Social And Educational Research, doi:10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n2p389.
Mirikitani, Janice. "Suicide Note." Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study (2004): 354.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where are You Going, where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories. Ontario Review Press, 1993.
Schall, Jacqueline, Tanner LeBaron Wallace, and Vichet Chhuon. "Fitting in high school: how adolescent belonging is influenced by locus of control beliefs." International Journal of Adolescence and Youth 21.4 (2016): 462-475.
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