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Is our present reality really real? Does the media tell us the truth or is it up to us to read critically and listen critically in order to arrive at a more objective truth of events? In this essay, I will first look at truth vs reality in a general way. Next, I will explore perceptions about the reality of female oppression. Lastly, I ask why people seeking true happiness end up destroying themselves?
Jon Scieszka wrote a short play “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” seeking to exonerate the character of the wolf. In the original story, the wolf is the big bad wolf. In almost all fairy tales the wolf is the villain. Research has shown that packs of wolves are sociable caring animals among themselves, hardly deserving the prejudiced conception of being entirely bad. Jon, however, excuses the wolf too readily of any responsibility in destroying the pigs and their homes and blaming the pigs for their own misfortune by their stupidity and lack of building skills. On the other hand, the wolf is the caring character needing sugar for his granny. So which story is a true rendition of animal and even human behavior? Obviously neither. Humans often are ready to blame others rather than themselves for misfortunes. Our media talks about fake news, which is an aberration of truth, all the more damaging because it usually has some kernels of truth in it. So the Little Pigs versions teach me to read and think critically to search for what is true.
In recent times abuse of women has made many headlines. It is a social issue that should not be ignored. Grimms Fairy Tale “Cinderella” gives some very interesting insights about women abusing women. For example, when Cinderella’s sisters would treat her like a slave, not let her go outside and keep her locked from the outside world. The sisters especially did not want her coming to the ball because any extra girl would only bring them farther away from the prince. They were convinced that meeting the man they fancied would be essential for their own happiness. In many places in our world it is still an expectation that women should be married, and moreover married into high society, as was the dream of the stepsisters in the fairytale. The custom of parents giving away their young daughters in marriage against the will of their children is still practiced often enough for financial security reasons. When are women excluding other women or spread bad gossip are we not like the stepmother and her daughters?
Cinderella’s fairytale sheds light on existing stereotypes about feminine beauty that have caused many women anxiety and concerns, especially teenagers not sure about themselves and wanting to be liked. Cinderella’s glass slipper only fit her small delicate foot. Then and now beauty seems to have measurable norms, a slim waistline, small feet, long gorgeous hair, a small nose, long eyelashes, manicured hands, and feet. The list could be extended to fit a beauty queen. But then what is true beauty? Cinderella was the same person when she was abused and dressed in rags as when she was in dazzling attire for the ball. She personifies a beauty that is not measurable. In spite of her suffering and maybe because of what she endured she had an inner beauty which radiated to those she met at the ball and was not lost on the prince. Her external beauty could be seen as an example of measurable norms. But one can assume that the storyteller used her outer appearance to tell of her inner unseen beauty which was shown however by her actions.
Some more subtle forms of abuse can be seen in Ron Carlson’s short story “Bigfoot Stole My Wife”. In the first paragraph, the husband is worried about his disappeared wife and how she might be treated by Bigfoot. Maybe he should have been concerned earlier about his own neglect of her while they were together. He says so himself. Having been too busy with his own addictive behavior following the races, he took little note of heeding her warnings “One of these days I’m not going to be here when you get home.”4 He probably was taking her care of him and their home for granted, simply seeing it as her duty and lacking in appreciation. They seem to have ceased to mutually support each other. He had upheld the belief that a woman should take care of all work in the home.
The author Ron Carlson uses the familiar character of “Bigfoot” as the thief of his wife, although women follow him willingly. Bigfoot projects friendliness to lonely women, when in reality he abuses them, selfishly using his charm to wreck their marriages. Our society is suffering from many ways of oppression and abuse involving both women and men. Suffering from loneliness, oppression and abuse and longing for a way out, people succumb to what seems to give instant happiness.
W.W. Jacobs in “The Monkey’s Paw” tells about a couple and their son who are visited by a stranger who gives them a magical Monkey’s paw, that will grant three wishes. He also warns them about fatal consequences. Wishing for instant money sets off a sequence of events bringing untimely death to them. This would relate to the use of drugs, experimenting with instant highs to forget all pain and going on fantastic journeys. When addiction has started it is often too late to quit and the result is the senseless destruction of the user.
Willa Cather in the short story “Paul’s Case” relates the sad story of Paul, a teenager who found himself different from others and realized early on that he was homosexual. Although misunderstood by classmates and teachers he is desperate for acceptance but fails to impress them with his gifts. He gets obsessed by money believing that it will solve all his problems. Instead because of getting away with lying and stealing money it leads to unrelenting disappointment. Paul chooses to end his own life by jumping in front of an approaching train. This story can wake us up to accept people who are different from us, not in a merely superficial way, like being nice to them up front, while laughing and talking about them behind their backs. We need to accept them for who they are in a deliberate quiet manner to help them to accept their own difference positively.
We have looked at Female Oppression and seen several ways in our world of oppressing girls and women. Further, we have noted that both men and women can be curtailed in their freedom and thus be oppressed. There is the need for mutual respect and acceptance between males and females.
Next, I have looked at Self-destruction under the lens of distinguishing the truth and the present reality. Self-destruction is not usually the person’s goal at all. It mostly begins with desiring happiness. Unfortunately, it is seeking instantaneous effortless happiness all in the wrong way, lacking discernment and disregarding warnings. Again this happens when false values are taken as reliable and true.
We have learned that reality does not automatically give us a true picture. We need to examine issues ourselves, gather information from sources we can trust and listen to people with sound judgment. For myself, as a Roman Catholic, I find many answers of what is true and how to discern the truth of uncertain matters in the teachings of the Church. There are many documents on social issues that give invaluable insights and help me to form my own knowledge, to distinguish what is true from and what is fake in the present-day reality.
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