Expectations,Self-Perception and Authentic Individuality
Literaryworks have always played a fundamental role in the human society,both in the contemporary and conventional times. They form theexpression of life in beautiful and truthful words, as well as awritten record of the aspirations, emotions and thoughts of thespirit of man. Literature is, more or less, a mirror that allowsindividuals to enrich their comprehension about the environment andthemselves, as well as sharpen their perceptions. Indeed, literaryworks not only assists individuals in seeing themselves in a muchbetter way, but also gives them immense pleasure. In the contemporaryhuman society, some themes have always been recurrent. For instance,numerous literary works have explored the concept of love, romance,greed, materialism, corruption among others. These themes areexplored with the assistance of characters, who may take any positionacross the divide. However, the most distinctive aspect for anycharacter in any literary work revolves around following his or herown path, in spite of the pressure from the people with whom anindividual lives or the environment. This is the case for a number ofcharacters examined in the course, one of whom is Elizabeth Bennettin “Pride and Prejudice”.
ElizabethBennett makes an unfailingly attractive character in the novel. Theauthor describes her as a beauty who possesses expressive eyes, butwhose most noticeable trait is her good sense and spirited wit. Hergood sense makes her the least and most favorite child to her motherand father respectively. Right from the beginning, Elizabeth isportrayed as an extremely strong character who is always interestingto be with and ready to laugh at anything that comes out as foolish.Indeed, she underlines her hope that she would never ridicule thegood or wise things, while acknowledging that nonsense, follies andinconsistencies often divert her but she laughs at them anytime shecan. Similarly, Elizabeth comes up as high-spirited, witty,spontaneous and exceptionally warm, not to mention intriguing, brightand realistic. In the novel, Elizabeth proves immensely that she is awoman who is particular to her society and age and yet distinctivefrom it. She, like her mother, engages in impulsive actions andoutspoken speeches, but never disregards the impropriety that thesociety imposed on women at that time.
Elizabeth takes pride in being a good character judge. Her capacityto read situations, in spite of her young age, comes up when shewatches Collins creep up to Darcy. She seems well knowledgeable aboutwhat is transpiring across the room. In spite of being right next toMr. Darcy, Collins is too self-absorbed to realize how much he isdespised. However, the same cannot be said of Elizabeth who seemswell privy about the events.
However,in spite of her self-assuredness, Elizabeth comes to realize that sheis not always right. After reading Darcy’s letter explaining theWickham situation, Elizabeth spends quite a lot of time castigatingherself for her deeds. It is written that she became immensely“ashamedof herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think withoutfeeling she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd”. Onthe same note she is forced by the people with whom she interacts totoe the line and acknowledge her folly to the extent of admittingthat “vanity,not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, andoffended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of ouracquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and drivenreason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I neverknew myself." (36.18-19).This is an admission of growth and change, or rather conformationwith the aspirations of the society within which she lived. Theembarrassment that she feels changed the manner in which she reactedto situations. It became apparent that she would not be showing outher true nature anytime soon especially in cases where the feelingsof her future husband were concerned. After eliminating themisunderstandings and ironing out the differences, Elizabeth cravesto tease him about Bingley but ceases from doing that afteracknowledging that he had not yet become accustomed to being laughedat.
However,Elizabeth shows her authentic nature when she makes a choice for amarriage partner. As much as the society believes in making marriagerevolve around worldly advantage only, Elizabeth is unwilling tocommit to Wickham, who is extremely unreliable, just because shecraves to get to bed with him. Further, she sticks her guns to notmarrying a poor man and is convinced that even handsome men shouldpossess “somethingto live on as well as the plain"(26.28). It is worth noting that women, at that time, were primarilyseen as females rather than human creatures, in which case men wereanxious to make them attractive mistresses than rational mothers andaffectionate wives (Wollstonecraft 3).
Inthe novel “Death of a Salesman”, the impact or effects offamilial and societal expectations are well evident in the coursethat the lives of the varied characters take. The story revolvesaround Willy Loman, a middle-class salesman who realizes that he hasbeen failed by the American dream that he has been pursuing for thelast 4 decades. Of particular note is the fact that his naïve andrelentless pursuit for this dream has had a negative impact on hisown sense of self-worth and dominated the lives of his familymembers. The realization that real wealth is based on being loved byone’s family drives him to make a final attempt to safeguard hisdignity as a man and provide his sons with a future via the lifeinsurance after committing suicide. From the novel, it is evidentthat the lack of pursuit of virtue has a negative impact on anindividual capacity to respond to the perceptions and expectations asthey face authentic individuality. For instance, Willy Lomaninstilled superiority complex in his young children, a factor thatBiff blames for his inability to take orders from anyone. Indeed, hestates "AndI never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I couldnever stand taking orders from anybody!".The immense pressure that Willy puts on his son causes the later tofinally explode and state that “I`mnothing! I`m nothing, Pop. Can`t you understand that? There`s nospite in it any more. I`m just what I am, that`s all."(Miller39) This is the breaking point of the relationship between WillyLoman and Biff. On the same note, it is the expectations of thefamily that cause a strain in the relationship between Willy andHappy. Indeed, Happy has always been relegated to the periphery asfar as the affection of his father is concerned. Willy constantlynarrates the accomplishments of Biff to Happy, which drives a wedgebetween the latter and the entire family. Indeed, Happy’s dismaland pitiable efforts at impressing Willy by stating that he has beenlosing weight and will get marriage exposes the damage that thelatter’s expectations have caused to the life of his son. It iswell noted that Happy resents his father, and the reader gets theidea that the former would have become a more confident and strongerindividual were it not for his father’s attitude and expectationstowards him. These are the same expectations that may have poisonedAdam and Eve’s ability to stay in the Garden of Aden. The two wereexpected to not touch the tree of life that was in the middle of thegarden, even when tempted by the serpent (Genesis 3). Such anexpectation was essentially setting them up to fail (Peterson 45).
Suchexpectations also cause individuals to have a distorted view of thereality. In acknowledgement of the expectations that the society hasfor him, Willy Loman comes up with stories and lies so as toreinforce his fantasies. It is noted that he, at one time, tried toconvince Howard that he made more money that he actually did. Thereader gets the inkling that Willy is not telling this lie so as toconvince the employer alone but also to continue believing inhimself, as well as the illusions that he created. These are the samelies that Willy espouses to his sons when he tells them that theywill be as successful as him as long as they have the appropriatepersonalities and looks. He states that “Becausethe man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man whocreates a personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked andyou will never want. You take me, for instance. I never have to waitin line to see a buyer”(Miller44) The statement cements a false expectation in his sons and mayhave caused the state of denial that his son Biff lives in. Thestatements that Biff was made for greatness prevents him from workingout his life. “Godalmighty, he`ll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, cannever really fade away!”(Miller49). This causes Biff to live in denial of his current status, inwhich case he fails to be proactive about the current condition andinstead prefers to load his blame on his father and dedicate hisenergies to becoming resentful and bitter.
However,not every other form of societal expectation is inappropriate.Indeed, some expectations are aimed at protecting individuals andensuring that they live relatively stable lives. In the case of LydiaBennett in “Prideand Prejudice”,her behavior of despising societal expectations pertaining to thesequence to be followed when one is getting married may have causedher to destroy her life. For instance, it is well noted that theolder girls in a family are expected to get married earlier than theyounger ones partly so as to eliminate competition for men. Thecustoms outlined that "Theyounger ones out before the elder are married!"(Austen, 29.34) However, the rebellious and spoilt nature of Lydiacauses her not to pay attention to the conventions and expectationsof the society, only to end up falling in love with an irresponsibleman who gambles every other thing away. This only points to the factthat not every other form of societal or familial expectation andconvention should be opposed, rather, individuals can pick up thethings that are desirable and realistic, while eliminating theexpectations that are detrimental to their notion of reality andtheir capacity to live free lives.
Miller,Arthur. Deathof a Salesman.Oxford: Heinemann, 1994. Print.
Austen,Jane. Prideand Préjudice.London: J.M. Dent & Co, 1900. Print.
Peterson,Eugene H. TheMessage: The Bible in Contemporary Language. ColoradoSprings: NavPress, 2002. Print.
TheEnglish Standard Version Bible. NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Wollstonecraft,Mary, and Candace Ward. AVindication of the Rights of Woman.Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 1996. Print.