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Erich Fromm and Shirley Jackson have both written wonderful true-life affecting essays and should be awarded for them. I appreciate both stories and feel they both set tales to learn from and live by. As a combined theme for both I ld say human consciousness is more then a gift. And read on to see what I mean. In Erich Fromm we notice a compassionate concern for the unfolding of life. Fromm claims that "the growing process of the emergence of the individual from his original ties, a process which we may call individuation, seems to have reached its peak in modern history in the centuries between the Reformation and the present. " Of course, the beginning of change is not the cause of all our problems but it did magnify them because now the existence of humanity itself has become a problem according to the way I am reading into Fromm's story.
Then when you shift you focus towards Shirley Jacksons The Lottery, it depicts an ordinary day with anticipation of yearly appointments. Her description awakens you to a pleasant sunny day, flowers blooming, and everyone united around the town square. All are gathered to cast lots for the right to another year's meeting. From the onset, this story quickly takes you into a dismal, gloomy atmosphere. The first hint comes in the first paragraph when they indicated that The Lottery will only take two hours and be over with in time for dinner. " (78) This was one meeting no one was eager to attend. These two stories are different from one another in text but are same in form.
Fromm later on talks about animals living completely within nature and proclaims that they are guided by instinctive behavior. He continues and says humans have lost such instinctive mechanisms. This is where Jacksons simplicity of life falls in. She brings up Fromm's ideas of animals in a form of a meeting that took place.
This meeting took place every year in the town square where all other happy and significant town occasions were held; it was not your usual gathering of friends, bringing covered dishes, balloons and clowns for the kids. A celebration it was not, but just the opposite. This story reveals the dark side of human nature. It's flaws, lack of compassion, selfishness and "anybody but me" attitude.
If you had had the opportunity to talk with my late grandmother she would characterize it as being "set in your way. " When a person is set in his or her way, no one can change it. This town was set in it's way, undoubtedly by the first villagers' that had settled there; (79) who had to made killing a tradition, something that would be carried out from generation to generation. Being set in your own way doesn't necessary have to be bad? Just imagine, if the tradition was something more positive that promote life rather than destroy it.
Traditions, rituals are made from rules established. The rules could be rules of a home, a city, county, state or nation. Then again imagination can do wonders and living life is just part of nature. And thats where Fromm brings our attention to living life. He states that although the animals are living within nature, they at the same time going above it and are conscious of themselves.
Which I think is very true. Setting themselves over against nature they have lost their unity and feel unbearably alone, lost, and powerless. This same process can be seen in the development of individual human beings. Each of us initially feels at one with our environment, but then becomes gradually more aware of our individuality.
Fromm determines, therefore, that "on the one side of the growing process of individuation is the growth of self-strength, " but on the other side of this process is a "growing aloneness. " Then again with Jacksons story one has to gaze from a distance. At first glance, one would think by reading "The Lottery, " that it was to tell of someone's great chance of fortune. After all it begins with the setting of a beautiful day. The sun was out, flowers are blooming and the grass green. However, as you continue to read, you began to question the hurriedness of getting this over with. I mean if it was a The Lottery as we know it today, you " re awaiting for anticipation for it to start and know that if you win, it's a beginning and not an end.
After all, how long could it take to pick a piece of paper out of the box and read off the winner, right? Wrong! When you began seeing the scenario presented, "little boys were gathering rocks and making a pile" - for a lottery? (78) People were half-heartedly smiling instead of laughing. These children stood aside grasping the hands of their brothers or sisters. The adults later arrived and they "stood away from the pile of rocks. " (78) The Villagers kept their distance when the "Black Box" arrived and were hesitant when they asked for help in setting it up. This box confirmed that this was not a pleasant tradition.
Its arrival announced doomed - the "Black Box. " You could not get away from this black box, the description of it, it's significance, it's tradition and its pride, and its color, it declining significance. Which brings me to the question of color, how exactly is it viewed and do we see it as self-conscious when little kids always run away from darker colors. Fromm answers my question by stating, if the human being is self-conscious, he realizes his powerlessness and the limitations of his existence. He visualizes his own end: death. " Yet we cannot go back to the pre-human state of harmony with nature without giving up our humanity. Fromm claims, therefore, that a human being "must proceed to develop his reason until he becomes the master of nature, and of himself. " But how come the nature of the people in The Lottery is so different? This Black Box they talk about, to me symbolized the brokenness of this town.
The Box itself was not the original box, but it was pieces of the original box ("There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here. ) (79) Old Man Warner; Tessie Hutchinson; Mrs. Dunbar; Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Graves, I believe, were part of the first people who settled in this town and developed this ritual or tradition. Old Man Warner is seventy-seven. How has he escaped the "Black Box" all those years is simply not just a miracle.
He criticizes anyone who talks of ending the Lottery. He knew that the challenge of this tradition would mean change. When you are set in your way, you are stubborn to change. Oftentimes one's stubbornness holds another in bondage. Many times traditions or rituals are carried out just because that's all one knew. For example, a young girl asked her mother, why do you cut off the end of the roast before cooking it.
The mother didn't know why she did it. All she knew is that her mother did it all her life. So she asked her mother and her mother said, "Because it wouldn't fit in the roasting pan I had. " You might feel that these are contradictions but even if these possibilities that Fromm talks about create new contradictions, humans should be able to resolve these problems either progressively or regressively. In the struggle between the love for life and the love of death, neither tendency is ever present in its pure form, that is, holiness or insanity. In most cases there is to be found a mixture of both forms of love, and our spirit orients itself towards whichever one dominates. For Fromm, of course, the question of which form will ultimately gain the upper hand is largely settled because unlike Freud, he contends that there is and inherent, qualitative predisposition toward life to be found in all living substances.
This he labels the "death instinct" as "a malignant phenomenon which grows and takes over to the extent to which the Eros does not unfold. "In contrast, for instance, to Conrad Lorenz, Fromm desires to show that the problem of human life does not lie in a reduction of instinctive reactions, but rather, that human aggression is conditioned by society and works in collaboration with the biological necessities of humanity. As the writing of Fromm repeatedly show, the fundamental problem of humanity is indeed grounded in its character, but not in (deficiently) instinctive behavior. This is also to be seen in Fromm's denial of the existence of original sin. "The Bible leaves no doubt that it does not consider man as either good or evil, but endowed with both tendencies Yet it is very significant that in the story of the fall the Bible never calls Adams act a sin. " What Adam can be reprimanded for, however, according to Fromm, is his disobedience. If, therefore, disobedience is sin, admits Fromm, then Adam and Eve sinned. Yet for Fromm disobedience is virtually a liberating act: The act of disobedience done by Adam and Eve free and opened their eyes.
They recognized each other as strangers and the world outside them as strange and even hostile. Their acts of disobedience broke the primary bond with nature and made them individuals. "Original sin, " far from corrupting man, set him free; it was the beginning of history. Man had to leave the Garden of Eden in order to learn to rely on his own powers and to become fully human. Fromm offers with these comments an idealistic interpretation of the fall that leaves no place for the concept of original sin. He believes he is supported in this interpretation by the Old Testament tradition because even the prophets confirm the idea that humans have aright to be disobedient. Only after their disobedience can human beings establish a harmony between themselves, other persons, and nature through the forces of reason and love.
Fromm even believes that humanity, through new acts of disobedience, has progressed in its development. This applies to humans spiritual as well as intellectual development because they liberate themselves from authorities that would not tolerate any new thoughts or any new freedoms for the individual. But in the end of all this I feel that Jacksons The Lottery brings up its main theme as being how traditions lose their meaning due to human forgetfulness which links very well to Fromm's thoughts on how humans can accept change and not know how to put it to use.
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