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The young mind, always moving forward, pushing the limits and testing the boundaries of society, will always have a burden that stems through childhood. While one may feel that they have broken out of their rut, become a true individual, a free soul; they will always have the stern judgmental eyes of American society at their back, burning through their conscience as they continue to shy away from conformity. In the last half of the 20th century, American society has continued to push the limits of conformity; bringing a revolution of change to the modern world. The rise of African Americans and the Civil Rights movement, the rise of pop-culture and hippies bringing a "free" ideas to the people, and more liberal politicians, trying to push for reforms to an outdated and conservative society. These changes were brought because people began to follow their hearts, follow their feelings, and follow their will to do what is right. Always has there been a judgmental force being the major blockade to revolution, whether it's a higher power such as God or the government, or it's an equal such as a peer or classmate; the judgments of others play an extremely important role in our decision making process. The text's of this year show the truth to how the judgment from others and society effect the way people act or think, and Americans really do carry the judgments of others; greatly impacting their actions and goals in society. Having a truly individual thought is almost impossible to have in American society, because almost everything we do involves some sort of interaction with others. Society is built around interactions, and from this we have created norms such as clothing styles and language lingo, while also creating values such as manners and proper lifestyles. With these interactions almost always come judgments, even if they
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aren’t exactly obvious. Sometimes it could be blatant with language, and other times it could be facial expressions or odd actions that signal something is wrong. Judgments are everywhere, and almost ever person takes in the judgments of others before acting on their own. From the novel Catcher In The Rye, Holden, claiming that he is an independent thinker and above the “phonies” of society, even takes the judgments of others into consideration when interacting in society. While talking with classmate Ernest Morrow’s mother on the train to New York City, Holden clearly contradicts his own ideas with his actions, saying out loud, “He adapts himself very well to things. He really does. I mean he really knows how to adapt himself,” while he actually is thinking to himself, “He son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pency, in the whole crumby history of the school.” (54) He clearly believes that Morrow is a jerk, but he fails to speak his true feelings to his mother, because it would go against the social value of manners, even though he doesn’t even believe in social values. Personally I believe that Holden lies to himself, because he thinks to himself how people are “phonies” and he follows his own beliefs, yet he claims, “I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. It's terrible.” (23) He clearly has convinced himself that he is following his own ideas, but really he is playing into the hands of society, and conforming to societies norms. No matter how much a person believes they are being an independent person, their actions are always going to be related to the judgments of others. It’s human nature to care what other people think, and it’s human nature to try and gain the acceptance of others. Holden claims he didn’t want acceptance in society, yet he wanted the women in his life to like him, and he clearly cared about what people such as his family and friends thought of him. Personally, I have dealt with similar situations that involving conforming to society. As a stubborn individual, I did not want to join the social networking system Facebook, because I
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felt that it was a stupid social list that people used to boost their egos and try to become a social elitist. Yet eventually, after a few months, I caved because I felt that because I wasn’t apart of Facebook, I was out of the loop with my friends, and socially I felt that I was inferior to the people who did have Facebook. The judgments of others caused me to not follow my true beliefs, and conform to society due to societies norms, just like Holden did. Conformity is not the only consequence of how judgment can effect how a person acts or thinks. Sometimes the urge to conform in society can cause one to create a somewhat “fake” life that doesn’t reflect the true personality of the person. People try and change themselves to mold to society, rather than allowing society to mold to them, and Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby, is a great example of this. Clearly his will to conform and fit in with the aristocratic American class of the 1920’s forced him to create a false life, in which his true identity was overshadowed by odd rumors such as, “He was a German spy during the war,” or, “Ill be he killed a man.”(44) The mystery of his identity helped improve his image, but it was his lavish parties that he would through that allowed him to truly embrace himself in high society. He was truly a fraud, living a double life; one that involved underground bootlegging and illegal activity, and one that involved an affair with his love, Daisy. Gatsby conformed, but at what price? Even though he had the posh lifestyle that most Americans dream for, it was the simple life that he shared with Daisy in his past that he really longed for. He was not happy with his fake lifestyle at first, because he was not with Daisy, but finally, once he was able to have what he truly wanted, everything seemed better for him. Nick comes to realize the false identity and mirage of happiness that Gatsby presented was true, and he states, “I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone." (155) Gatsby and Nick realize that the illusion of happiness through conforming to society is wrong, and they know that the real way to enjoy life is to follow their hearts and passions. This judgment from society about fitting in and being alike is shown in Gatsby and Nick as false joy, and they figure out that it is the individualism that sets them apart from the rest, that makes them great. This realization is an important moment for any person, and I experienced this idea while I was in middle school. Back in the days of puppy
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love, I used to have a crush on a classmate of mine; we’ll call her Jenny. Now, I’m not going to say that I fell head over heals, but I will admit that I was pretty motivated to get her attention, and make her mine. She, of course, had a crush on another more popular guy; we’ll call him Jared. I did my best to emulate Jared, changing all my individual aspects to reflect his, hoping that maybe Jenny would pursue me over Jared. After two months of being just like Jared, hanging with his friends, eating his favorite foods, quoting his favorite movies, and wearing his favorite brands; I realized that I wasn’t being myself, and If Jenny didn’t like who I was as an individual, then why should I like her? I realized that I cant conform to what other people want, I have to follow my own path, and I have to respect other opinions, even if they are negative toward my own. Jenny and I never ended up dating, but in high school we did become close friends, and she finally began to accept who I was as an individual. I will never try to follow to the norm, and I’ve learned that I have to be myself, even if that requires wearing scrubs on Thursdays to support my favorite show, or doing the Rubik’s cube in the hallways even if it makes me look nerdy, or even riding a razor scooter to school when it clearly is not a “cool” thing to do. I am an individual, and if people can’t respect me for whom I am, then to hell with them. Americans don’t follow this ideal enough, and really care too much about what others think of them. Carrying the judgments of others is really a crisis in our society. The final and most crucial reason why Americans carry the judgments of others is due to their inability to accept the consequences of going against society. Going against the norm will always spark controversy, in some cases though, the severity of consequences can have major damage to an individual. Tim O’Brien, the main character of The Things They Carried, has to make a tough decision in his life about whether he should dodge his draft request and flee to Canada, or enlist in the draft, and risk his life and future. He let the opinions and judgments of others effect his choice directly, as he thought, “It was easy to imagine people sitting around a table down at the Old Gobble Café on Main Street, the conversation slowly zeroing in on the young O’Brien kid, how the damned sissy had taken off for Canada.” (45) He felt ashamed, he felt the pressures of society influencing his choices, and he allowed them to. It eventually led him to go
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against his true beliefs, and join the war, so that the world would not think of him as a coward for trying to follow his heart. He was too scared to face the consequences of believing in himself, and most Americans suffer from this problem. They don’t want to start up any trouble, change the world, they just want to coast by, make as little of an impact as possible, and while they do this, they convince themselves they are happy because they “fit in”. I’ve seen it personally, and I feel that its ridiculous that people are so scared of following what they think is right, just because of what other people think. This year, our class decided to make an “underground” t-shirt that would help stimulate class unity and create a good representation of our class. Without even seeing the shirts, the administration decided to take a stand against the shirts, assuming that they were offensive, and assuming that wearing them would cause an uprising of the students. In this effort to stop the shirts, they administered an email warning students about the shirts, and consequences of the shirts. Along with this email, some teachers decided to threaten students who wore the shirts by refusing to write recommendations about that student. The day the students were supposed to wear the shirts, many decided to chicken out, due to the fear of consequences by the school and administration. The students of the 2008 class carried the judgments of the administration rather than follow their own beliefs, and as a result most students chose not to wear the shirts, even though they were hardly offensive. It is unfortunate that most people are too scared to step up and follow what they believe, but there are many success stories in history, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, who fought for their causes, and succeeded…even with large consequences as a possibility. Americans do carry the judgments of others, and its unfortunate that they allow them to have such a strong impact on their actions. Clearly the judgments of others have had critical impacts on my life, as well as characters from texts that we have read in class. These judgments clearly alter the way we act, think, and hold ourselves in society, and shamefully they almost always have negative impacts. People too often take these judgments too seriously, and allow them to control almost every decision that is made in life. People no longer think for themselves, they just follow in the footsteps of the person in front of them; out of fear that they may no
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longer fit the “American Ideal” that society has brainwashed us into believing is our destiny. It’s true, our society is facing a mass extinction of individualism, and unfortunately the fear of revolution has been a key source to why. People like Gatsby and Nick are disappearing, because the idea of going against the norm is so uncommon. More and more people are facing the choices of Tim O’Brien, and following in his path of letting the opinions of the world effect their choices. America used to be the land of the free, but now we are the land of the followers, and it all because of the judgments Americans carry.
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