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Conformity is defined as acting according to certain accepted standards. Nowadays, when one is a child, one is taught to behave in the same way as most other people so one does not get disapproval from society. It is ‘right’ on the surface, but it is actually hidden danger as showing in Civil Peace, The Lottery and Girl.
To begin with, conformity increases depression. Civil Peace, written by Chinua Achebe, is a story about Jonathan Iwegbu who is a survivor from the Civil War in Nigeria. Jonathan goes to the offices of the Coal Corporation where he uses to work to find out what is what, then he sees “his fellow ex-miners…at the end of the day’s waiting just slept outside the doors of the offices”. Post-war life creates a feeling that forces survivors to blindly stay with other survivors that like them, so Jonathan’s ex-miners surround themselves with depression and it ruins their chances of starting life again. At the same time, Jonathan discontinues his visits to the offices after few weeks, then uses old bicycle as a taxi and his children “picked mangoes…old them to soldiers’ wives…and his wife started making breakfast akara balls for neighbours”. Jonathan is not in conformity with other survivors and he opens up a bar soon with his family earnings.
Furthermore, conformity does not encourage resistance in personal life. In the encounter between Jonathan’s family and a group of thieves, the thieves ask for 100 pounds and do not break in. If one has money stolen by thieves, one is taught not to resist. Likewise, Jonathan “heard all the neighbourhood noises die down one after another”. When the thieves ask Jonathan to open the door, he raises the alarm “Police-o…Wake Up! Police-o!”. It does not scare the thief away, but as a result, the leader wants to talk business. Negotiation goes peacefully, at the end of this story, Jonathan gives only 20 pounds to the thieves and those money is ex-gratia payment he gets in the morning.
Conformity can create a dangerous society. The Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson, is a story about sacrificing the ‘winner’ of an annual lottery for the good of crops. According to Old Man Warner, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson) is the origin for the ritual. Villagers carry on the old saying, because they are eager to get approval from society. The tradition has been discarded and what remains only is conformity, but here is no excuse for someone to conform to society when the outcomes harm others.
In addition, conformity leads to apathy. At the time of Bill Hutchinson wins the first draw, Tessie Hutchinson, his wife shouts to the host of the lottery, “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted…It wasn’t fair”. Tessie is the only villager who resists to this unjust tradition and protects her family, but lottery continues. Final round takes place within Hutchinson’s family and all members show their blank paper except Tessie, so “Bill…went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it”. Bill’s behavior is ‘acceptable’ as he is one of the villagers, but it cannot be tolerated as he is a husband.
Conformity can be complex thing, sometimes good and bad. Girl, written by Jamaica Kincaid, is a poem about a mother giving her young girl advice on life concerns. Every advice the mother mentions is about the positive traits of women in the society. In the circumstance, conformity can help the girl learn how to behave and abandon her bad habits. If the girl happens to fail to be a respectable woman, she will “look like the slut…so bent on becoming”, then the pressure placed by the society can force the girl to make correct changes to her behaviors. Although the only reason for change is to be liked by her society, the outcome still creates a positive result in her life.
Conformity causes one to lose one’s identity and encourages a lack of diversity. If the girl follows everything she is told by her mother, consequently, she will not be different from every other, then there will be no colour in the world.
In brief, conformity cannot exist alone. Society needs people to step out for themselves and make changes. It is not right to be ordinary, because it is right to be unique!
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