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The concept of individualism emerged in the 19th century. The French were the first to use this expression when they expressed their reaction to the French Revolution and were demanding their individual rights and taking their interests into account. The term “individuality” can be understood and used in various ways. Therefore, the study of the term in history adds some kind of precision in the analysis of the concept in the present world, as Max Weber said: “historically-oriented conceptual analysis would at the present time be of the highest value to scholarship” (Lukes 2). By understanding events, the concept of “individualism” will be the ability to create personal values that stand in defense of themselves in the face of societal norms and in their presence. In addition, it means the ability to work independently and rationally and be able to think from another perspective, not as defined by society. This is confirmed by Realo, a professor in social and behavioral sciences, that giving maximum “freedom” and “welfare” with the ability to have the “self-directed” and “self-contained” is what makes the person be individual (Realo 164). In the following paragraphs, two different texts will be analyzed from the perspective of the term of individualism and look for the common and different characteristics of the term.
Beginning with the article “A Porn Star’s Letter to her Unborn Son” by Aurora Snow, the heroine Aurora was a self-reliant character as she always tended to talk about “my choices” and “I want” without seeing any presence for external effects on her wills. Aurora gave an impression about her personality by saying: “When you’re 18 it’s so easy to see the future and know exactly what you do and don’t want” (Snow, para 14)which meant that there was an absolute self-directed in her life and it indicates that there was no one dictating what should or should not be done. Also, she had no shame for working in that field as long as she got the money without expressing any fear from facing the ethical issues about that. As it was clear that she did not address her past from the point of view of the community, she only mentioned what was in her personal interest and the results she carried, away from any damage may be caused to others. Moreover, it is important to draw attention to the way she gave the excuses; the reasons were stating a fact that Aurora expressed a full ability to defend her decisions and personal choices even if it seems wrong for the others. In the end, when she explicitly expressed her regret to her son, she asked him to make decisions based on his ability to move ahead with his decisions in the future and did not say what others will talk about, and whether it is in line with the views of others, or defect and allowed.
The second text, “No Name Woman” by Maxine Hong Kingston, we see that the aunt had an individual personality away from the values of the village in which she lived and she paid the price because of her individuality. The aunt broke the rules of the ethics of married women as she combed her hair in a way that attracts the attention of the villagers and she was interested in her appearance in a very different from what do married women looked like in her village. The aunt had special wishes, including the right to choose her life partner and she wanted to love, not like other women in her village who married according to their family choice.
The desire to achieve personal freedom and practice it away from the common culture among people, also applies to niece “Kingston”. She devotes her memories to the denied aunt to express her struggle in distinguishing her personal identity away from the culture. That was clear she had been raised in a family that pay a lot of respect to the Chinese traditions and norms, whereas, she lives in different culture. An example of that, the continuing require from the mother not to tell anyone about her aunt as she brought the shame to the family and stained it. Kingston seemed to have dreams and desires that cannot be done because of the dominance of Chinese culture on the family life, which led her to defend her aunt choices as she might have been through that long time ago. Both Aurora and the aunt had a personality that was beyond the familiar in their societies, both of them wanted to fulfill their desires.
But the difference is clear at the end of things, that the ideas of Aurora, was able to overcome the rule of others and there was someone to stand by her to achieve her dreams. Her family did not renounce because of differences and ideas, all they did was express their concern for her, but they did not make her sin a disgrace for the rest of her life. Aurora’s unique personality was also present when she decided to have a child of her own, despite her knowledge of society’s view of her, and tried to change her life with better future. While the aunt paid dearly, her character that did not correspond with the Chinese culture at the time. It seems that the pressure she was subjected to, led her to move to another world with her baby in a desire to get her freedom there. She did not feel remorse as Aurora did, neither have the strength to defend her ideas against society. As for the niece, her suffer for being split and stuck between to places with different values might affect her ability to take actions without any tragedy.
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