Idealism in Realistic Context
Idealism in Realistic Context
Human idealism is a predominant theme in contemporary literature. Movies such as “Superman,” “Star Wars,” “Armageddon,” “Charlie’s Angels,” etc. have impressed the world with their portrayal of ideal human qualities as characters deal with social and personal conflicts of everyday life. The same theme can be found in the stories of Kincaid, Crane and Chabon. The stories titled, “Girl,” “An Episode of War,” and “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” present the protagonists’ struggle towards idealism in a realistically imperfect society.
Idealism, as the American Heritage Dictionary defines, is “the act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form” (Answers. com). This idea is in contrast with realism, which represents “art or literature of objects, actions, or social conditions as they actually are, without idealization or presentation in abstract form” (as mentioned in Answers. com). In the three stories mentioned, human characters are expected to attain ideal qualities to compensate the flaws of society. While they are depicted with idealism, the stories present at the same time the real status of society characterized by discrimination, death, and superficiality.
Primarily, the society, with its history, culture, and norms, establishes limitations and requirements for human characteristics. These requirements are directly established in Kincaid’s, “Girl. ” In this piece of work, the mother embodies the society in setting standards for women. She orders her daughter what to do, from washing clothes, cooking pumpkin fritters, soaking salt fish, ironing her father’s clothes, to making ends meet (17). Although these requirements are set by a mother (Moore 2008) adhering with these is similar to fulfilling requirements set by society.
Since the story does not specify a character’s name, it can be inferred that the author addresses the female population in general, and thus exempts the opposite gender of the said responsibilities. Therefore, while ideal qualities are expected of a girl, the standards disparage the female gender. In Crane’s “An Episode of War,” the situation of the characters demands them to have courage in spite of personal fears of death. Seeing the lieutenant’s blood gushing out of his body, the soldiers are confronted with the reality of death.
Despite their fears, they need to show courage in the midst of disaster because it is what society expects of them. Similarly, the lieutenant has to face his fate with a brave heart because there is no place for cowardice in the military service. At the end of the story as he denies his pain and says, “I don’t suppose it matters so much as all that” (11), the lieutenant submits to the standards of courage set by his society. In Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” the author presents a different style in embodying the society it portrays.
It uses the characters’ concepts of the world expressed in their dialogue. In the story, Sammy and Joe are seen brainstorming about a hero they would like to create. Both have the same notions of a hero based on what society has taught them. Based on their conversation, a hero is one who has supernatural qualities like Superman, but must be purpose-driven like Batman to ensure that people would love him. The making of a hero thus projects the idealism in the minds of the two characters. As they construct their own hero, the two present the expectations that each of them has learned from the society.
Evidently, the concept of human idealism which asserts compliance with the rules of society makes the characters lose their self-identity in the process. In the first piece, as the girl does all of what the society (or the mother) expects of a daughter, she loses the opportunity to design her life according to her own plans. In other words, the ideal characteristics that she is expected to have all lead to losing her right to live and design her own life. The tasks that she is bound to accomplish each day thus prevent her from doing things that she wants or needs, such as attending school.
In sum, these tasks imply stereotyping and gender discrimination. Stereotyping is very obvious as the story relates all the responsibilities a girl should do in a household. By advising a girl how to cook, iron clothes, or serve dinner, the mother implies limiting the girl to household chores and discouraging her from pursuing education and profession. In the second story, the loss of identity is vividly illustrated. The situation itself calls for pretense and deceit. As the men in the battlefield witness the wounding of the lieutenant, they suddenly grow strange, and at once become unable to face the situation.
Besides the sergeant who nervously assists the lieutenant, the rest of the men are astound and do not know what to do. Their silence as the lieutenant is carried back to the camp explains the sudden strangeness that they feel. Idealism prevents them from expressing fear or disgust even at a very crucial moment. In contrast, if the soldiers were only imbued by realism, they would have expressed sentiments, or some would have backed out from their mission. However, due to idealism, they choose to pretend and bear the sacrifices brought by war.
In the third story, as Sammy and Joe strive to construct a superhero, they lose their own human identity in the process. The superficial qualities they want their superhero to possess deconstruct their human characteristics. Accordingly, this motive suggests their wish for supernatural strength and escape from the ordinary ways of the world. Therefore, while they aim for a newly constructed identity, Joe and Sam attempt to abandon not only their own human characteristics but everything associated with it, including their society.
Such attempt can be due to the difficulties they encounter in life, although there is no mention of this in the excerpt. The three literary pieces from contemporary literature present different struggles of the characters in the society they live in. Highly imbued by idealism, the characters show the reality of every person to attempt to adhere to the expectations and standards of society. Like many of us, although they experience the loss of identity and other social struggles, they still continue to face the challenges of life, the ideal requirements that social reality demands.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 17 October 2016
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