You are on page 1of 6

Averia 1

Gyasti Averia
Professor Underwood
English 1A/31223
19 February 2015
Narrative and Image Shape Reality
Individuals living in postmodern era are like sponges floating on an ocean. The water,
representing narratives, images, and information, if soaked by a sponge just the right amount, the
sponge would expand, but if soaked too much, the sponge will drown. In postmodern era, the era
of information overload, narratives and information, which many times do not have enough
credibility to be considered as truth, constantly affect peoples realities. Reality that used to lie in
a meta-narrative, such as a religion, was replaced by local-narrative, a more subjective,
customized, individualized version, as pluralism emerged. The embodiment of pluralism in
postmodern era has enabled people to create a version of reality that consists of parts of different
narratives depending on their preferences. Narrative, a man-made fiction, consciously and
subconsciously dictates peoples reality that lives in that narrative. An image forms inside a
narrative as a base to measure how successful one is upon, further dictating ones reality.
Narratives and images, even though were created by human beings, could turn against or exclude
them creating a dehumanized world through reification, which disconnects people from
acknowledging cultures and traditions as their own product of consciousness rather than an
unchangeable destiny. Although extreme fundamentalists would deny narratives involvement in
their beliefs and reality, narrative and image present a great part in shaping ones reality because
reification of narratives have set boundaries that alter the basis and the aim of most peoples
actions, interactions, and perceptions in their social reality.

Averia 2
Narrative and image serve as a form of social control in local communities by
constructing different social units or structures, and connecting people through the required
constant interaction. In postmodern era, narratives control how people socialize and
communicate through dialogues, and direct how people act in their play, or in this case their
reality. If individuals living in postmodern era are taken as the social actors, then narrative works
to construct the social reality that they live in and interact with. Narrative is believed to create a
stable, conducive, structured social environment with limitations, concreting the abstracts of
societies. As stated by Peter Berger, an American sociologist and a sociology professor at Boston
University, in "Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness" (1965), that social
structuration is part of the human enterprise of totalization. It follows, then, that social structure
is nothing but the result of human enterprise. It has no reality except a human one (62)
affirming the fact that every social structure, even the most basic one, is man-made, as does a
narrative. For instance, a family unit believed to be constructed through narratives told by other
family members, rather than being pre-given or organic. The narrative of family creates a stable,
but binding social environment. Thus, most of time narrative establishes peoples social reality,
though not naturally nor consensual (Mumby 7). Not only is narrative constructing peoples
social reality, its also to some extent constructing peoples morality.
People rely on reification of narratives as their moral compass to determine the fitting and
appropriate course of action to take in any given situation. Trough reification of social roles,
people consciously feel the need to follow a particular guideline, some sort of stereotype of the
normal things to do by the people in that certain social role. People fail to realize this process has
caused the creation of a boundary, an inevitable perimeter, thats preventing them to grow and
expand both through roles, or themselves as human beings, metaphorically, equivalent to living

Averia 3
inside a bubble. Berger and Pullberg claim that reification of social roles has made concrete
actions then become mere mimetic repetitions of the prototypical actions embodied in the roles
(67), furthering people away from their own consciousness. A representative of this idea that
people encounter daily is how one does a thing only because someone else has done it, thinking
the action as a normal thing to do, or thinking of having no other choice than to do so.
Reification of narratives turns qualities of human instincts, and perceptions into quantities of dos
and do nots (Berger and Pullberg 68). In addition to being a moral compass, reification of
narrative frequently shapes traditions that many times do not work in the peoples favor.
Narratives create traditions that force people into doing certain rituals or habits that didnt
naturally exist before the reification of narratives. Every person who is born into the world is
immediately born into traditions. Traditions, narratives that once constructed by people, are
carried through out lifetimes making them somehow irreversible and indestructible. Traditions,
although often times illogical if seen with a critical mindset, have a tendency to embed habits in
social reality. The habit of spending money, over consuming on the holiday season is a true
reflection of the effect of traditions. The 96% of Americans that celebrated Christmas contribute
1/6 of the whole year of retail sales during holiday season. This particular tradition have people
mistaken the joy of holiday from having intimacy with their family and community, to mostly
chasing the materialistic aspect of the holiday (Kasser and Sheldon 314). Commercialization of
weddings amplifies how tradition plays a great part in changing social reality. The tradition of
gifts giving at weddings has again shift the true meaning of the sacred binding of commitment
into a way to determine the value of their relationship with the person giving the gift through a
materialistic perspective (Wajda 85). Evidently, some traditions have affected people financially,
as has the narrative of image.

Averia 4
Most of peoples actions in pursuit of economic gain have a purpose of creating a
superior image over others because in many communities, being wealthy indicates a high image.
John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher, explains wealth as useful and agreeable things, which
possess exchangeable value. In post-modern era, local communities base their narrative on
values. One of the most common values embedded in almost every community is the value of
money (Tuttle 618). A narrative of how a successful and rich person has been set by a standard of
having highly expensive possessions. Take the case of using a celebrity to advertise a brand of
expensive automotive. The narratives people set of celebrities images allure people to revamp
their reality to be able to afford that certain vehicle with the impression of also purchasing the
celebrities lifestyle, hence also driving the car sales higher. With a desire to reach a certain
image in peoples mind, one is willing to work hard, invest smartly, and alternate their reality.
But despite of many occasions that clearly show narratives effects on peoples reality, certain
groups of people may still be opposed to the idea.
Highly orthodox people may argue that their actions are based on their faith, believing
that the only image that matters is Gods image of them, and denying religion as a narrative, a
man-created story. A culture shaped by the Bible believes that the Bible interpreted truths of
history. But the fact that history is also a narrative made it somehow impossible to acquire its
truth. Robert Jenson, a former senior scholar for research at the Center of Theological Inquiry,
stated in Its The Culture (2014), that thus in crisis-modernity (also known as post- modernity
or high modernity in different areas of culture), the very notion of a comprehensive story that
warrants the truth of our partial claims is suspector, indeed, forbidden (34) about the
disappearance of meta-narratives in the western culture, and the impossible quest of timeless
truth. With the acceptance of that, enlightenment was found inside local narratives. Local

Averia 5
narratives let people choose freely as long as certain rules or traditions in that community are
followed. People favor local narratives over the tight bond of meta-narratives, especially in postmodern era where uncountable variations of perspectives exist. Therefore without a doubt,
narratives are proven to alternate peoples reality, in this case, for the better.
Narrative and image are deeply affecting how people form their reality, because they
directly affect peoples lives socially, mentally, and economically. Narrative creates social reality
for people by constructing a stable social structure. Inside those social structures, narratives also
act as guides for individuals to determine the appropriate course of action for any circumstances
they may encounter while living inside that narrative. Though traditions in these narratives seem
illogical or unnatural at some point, they still have economical benefit for retail businesses.
Therefore, they will also be beneficial for people in businesses because most communities value
the notion of wealth, and superiority over others.

Averia 6
Works Cited
Berger, Peter, and Stanley Pullberg. "Reification and the Sociological Critique of
Consciousness." History and Theory 4.2 (1965): 196. JSTOR. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
Jenson, Robert. "It's The Culture." First Things: A Monthly Journal Of Religion & Public Life
243 (2014): 33-36. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Kasser, Tim, and Kennon M. Sheldon. "What Makes For A Merry Christmas?." Journal Of
Happiness Studies 3.4 (2002): 313-329. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.
Mumby, Dennis K. Narrative and Social Control: Critical Perspective. Vol. 21. California: Sage
Publication, 1993. Print. P302.7.N366.
Tuttle, C. A. "The Wealth Concept. a Study in Economic Theory." The ANNALS of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science 1.4 (1891): 615-34. JSTOR. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
Wajda, S. T. "The Wedding Present: Domestic Life beyond Consumption." Journal of Design
History 22.1 (2009): 84-86. Oxford Journals. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.