Individualism in Literature
Individualism in Literature
Individualism is one of the most wondrous themes of literature because of its contribution to the pursuit of human dignity. Individualism is a moral stance and a philosophical concept which puts emphasis on the moral worth and the supreme and intrinsic value of human beings (Lukes 51). Literature has proved to be an outlet for an artist’s own definition of individualism. Due to the fact that such philosophical concept is associated with so many aspects of life including society and culture and art, authors have devoted ample time in using individualism creatively while demonstrating social awareness and way of life.
Among the authors who explore the concept of individualism are Ayn Rand, Charlotte Gilman and Margaret Atwood. The characters in the literary works of such authors reflect how the pursuit for individualism can be disturbed ans stunted with the occurrence of love. Rand’s dystopian book called Anthem explores the turbulent period in which mankind is forced to live with the harsh setbacks of irrationality and collectivism, and the failures of socialistic upbringing and economics.
In Anthem, a youth named Equality 7-2521 finds himself in a hidden tunnel, isolating himself from an anti-individualistic society and realizinng how much solace and solitude suit him. But his search for individualism is being disrupted by the Golden One, a beautiful peasant girl whom he considers as a valuable element in his eyes (Rand 19). In Gilman’s novel titled Herland, three adventurous friends journey into an all-female land called Herland and its women deprived of social realities of the modern world and the contribution of masculinity to their maternal well-being (Gilman 95).
Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale presents to readers the search for individualism in a Puritan society established using ruins of war. Atwood explores how love can redefine and inflluence a person’s search for human dignity in The Republic of Gilead that discourages the pursuit for individualism and legalizes slavery (Atwood 8). Individualism in Herland Herland is a novel that sees women in an isolated land become fascinated with the beauty and mystery of the real world where there is a sense of conformity and recognition for femininity and masculinity.
One of the characters in book, Moadine, affirms such fascination to the societal settings of the real world by declaring how wonderful and supremely beautiful man’s civilization must be due to the countless contribution of science and technology (Gilman 96). It is clearly manifested that Moadine, being one of older women who teaches the three men in the way of life of Herland, has fallen into the conundrum of the Utopian society of the modern world. Moadine’s curiosity on the civilized ways of man which women in Herland are being deprived with becomes an avenue for them to enter in the mysterious homeland of the three men.
Moadine is in charged in guarding one of the three male captives, Terry, a classic male chauvinist attempts to fascinate Moadine with his knowledge and control over the female mind (Gilman 37). Terry is a portrait of individualist kind of male who only recognizes the strength of the males and perceives women to be as secondary beings. Terry deeply resents women in Herland who can exist without the help of men and dares to call them sexless, epicene, and undeveloped neuters (Gilman 157).
But the bitterness of Terry and his negative attitude towards the women are set aside upon his realization that he is madly in love with Alima (Gilman 157). Alima is one of the girls of Herland and embodies the attitudes and non-conformist traditions of the land. She is a tall long-limbed lady, well-knit and strong and agile (Gilman 18). The personality and upbringing of Alima voices out female superiority over men and her individualist character is deeply rooted out from her self-confidence and belief that women should never consent to an unequal relationship with the opposite sex.
Alima’s eyes are full of splendor and mirrors out her wide, fearless and reluctance to pain and losing which is indicative of her interest as more that of an intent male playing in the field than of a female lured by ornaments and gentleness of romance (Gilman 19). Knowing that women love to mastered, Terry is convinced to woe Alima using sheer brute force, pride and passion of his strong masculine side (Gilman 146). Alima eventually fall in love with Terry and eventually marries him. Their love confirms the failure of individualism as they both try to live in the Utopian society as husband and wife.
Another character in the story who reflects the failure of individualism is Jeff, one of the three explorers who found out about Herland. Jeff is the complete opposite of Terry and is strongly challenged by the independent and athletic girls of the isolated land. Jeff’s individualist attitude is seen upon his involvement with the almost natural advantages of Herland and its people (Gilman 137). Jeff becomes confounded with Herland’s way of living and declares his personal love for the land (Gilman 138).
Prior to the discovery of the land, it is known that Jeff is so much absorbed with the realities of the Earth but maintains a priestly and angelic approach to masculinity and womanhood. But his individualist view of the modern world is changed upon the discovery of Herland that makes him realize that there is a better world than the real one. His profound appreciation for the Herlandian culture is evident in the way he treats it women and Jeff has refined conception about the women in Herland and deep thoughts about the idealized femininity.
Jeff is strongly in love with Celis, showers her with a mystique kind of romance, and keeps on insisting that he take care of her rather than doing the typical thing of treating her as his equal better half. Jeff worships Celis and the ideals which she presented (Gilman 137). Celis’s mild-mannered attitude and vulnerability force Jeff to think that twice of going back to the real world together with Celis (Gilman 149). Van, one of the explorers and also the narrator in the novel, thinks of Herland critically and philosophically.
Van has always stood at the middle ground, thinking of the Herlandian culture using science and used to argue about the physiological limitations of sex (Gilman 11). As the girls of Herland think that sex is just for procreation, both Van and Jeff have learned to overcome difficulties concerning sex. Van used to declare the discovery the land is aiming at friendship, a civilized attitude on both sides (Gilman 24). Both Jeff and Van do not want to leave the different kind of utopian society which Herland has for their own patriarchal and male-dominated world.
In this notion, it is evident that Van falls in love with the perfection of Herlandian culture and the ways of its women. It is seen in the attitude of Van that he is no longer interested with the pursuit of individualism as he is so much swept off by the beauty and perfection of Herland. Van’s wife Ellador is equally intelligent as Van and is being motivated by her curiosity of the utopian modern society of her husband as well as her love for Van. Ellador explains things sweetly and kindly and thinks of Van as a wise man with no foolishness (Gilman 117).
Such concept of him makes Van reluctant to rejoin the realities of his world and present to Ellador the harshness and stupidities of the Earth (Gilman 117). Individualism in Anthem The story of Anthem revolves around its protagonist, the youth named Equality 7-2521. Equality 7-2521 finds himself in an unspecified date in which mankind is forced to negate all the concepts of individuality and conform to the productive and capitalist values which technological advancement brings.
It is clearly manifested in the novel that the author tries to eliminate the philosophical idea of individualism by eliminating the pronoun “I” and replacing it with “We” and “our” and other plural pronouns which are all indicative of conformity. Being the protagonist in the story, Equality 7-2521 struggles between individualism and collectivism. In the beginning part of the story, it is already given that the protagonist fears to be alone and dreads the consequences of having one head and one body (Rand 1). The protagonist is caught up in a world that views individualism as an illegal act, great transgression and source of all evil (Rand 1).
Equality 7-2521 is a street sweeper who believes in the concept of individualism and discourages the collectivist society which the Council has established. He can be described as vain and self-centered, brave and intelligent. His curiousity and desire for freedom are what makes him fearless of the society of brainless drones who surround him. The protagonist is a symbol of superiority of a singular intellectual being to the homogeneity of the whole society which does not have the courage to think for themselves and is indistinguishable from each other.
In order to hide from the evils of the Palace of the Great Council, Equality 7-2521 hides in an underground tunnel where he is alone and fulfils his longing for solitude (Rand 23). He describes the feeling hiding inside an abandoned tunnel and writing about his sentiments on the world which has gone wrong as a liberating experience. According to the protagonist, the air is pure and odorless in the tunnel which gives him enough strength to survive underground (Rand 23).
One of the sentiments of Equality 7-2521 is that there is no solidarity among the brotherhood because almost everyone seem to have their own personal problems, ideal and aspirations. Fraternity 2-5503 is described by the protagonist as a quiet boy with gentle eyes who suddenly cries without reason and whose body shakes at night with unexplainable sobs (Rand 24). Solidarity 9-6347 also belongs to the brotherhood and is described by Equality 7-2521 as an intelligent and bright youth, sometimes fearless, and screams in his sleep at night (Rand 24).
These observations instigate an idea that the protagonist may be different from those around him and realizes how disturbing and troubling it is to be different. Such realization makes him regret his differences and attempts to bring himself into conformity which the Council continuously promotes. The friendship of Equality 7-2521 and International 4-8818 is said to be an evil thing as they both exist in a time of great Transgression of Preference that declares loving someone better than the others in the brotherhood as illegal as it is written that they should love all men and make friends with all of them (Rand 11).
The friendship of Equality 7-2521 and International 4-8818 is suggestive of the protagonist’s half-hearted attempts to erase all of his preferences for individual people, to help and care for each person equally, and to be identical to his fellow brothers. International 4-8818 considers the protagonist as a prophet. When he and Equality 7-2521 found out about the tunnel, he is torn between loyalty to his friend and to the Council. He represents an individual who secretly search for his own meaning but is disrupted in his pursuit because of the fear of breaking the law of the Council.
Another character from the story is The Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word. The protagonist describes the Transgressor as young and tall and has hair of gold and blue eyes (Rand 26). The Transgressor suffers no pain as he is burned alive and his tongue had been torn out so that he can no longer speak of the true essence and meaning of individualism (Rand 26). It is said that the Transgressor has an honorable death as there was no pain in his eyes and no hints of agony in his body (Rand 26).
It is said that there was only joy and pride, a pride holier than what is fit for the human pride (Rand 26). The Transgressor’s fate is reflective of the Council’s resentment of the word “individualism” which The Transgressor had been longing to proclaim. Collective 0-0009 is the leader of the World Council of Scholars. Equality 7-2521 considers Collective as the oldest yet the wisest of the Council who hates and fears him (Rand 42). Collective 0-0009 questions the superiority and the intelligence of the protagonist and accuses him of breaking the laws of the Council and boasting infamy (Rand 44).
The individualistic view of Collective 0-0009 is seen through his appreciation of the Council as the sole brain of the society (Rand 44). Collective 0-0009 symbolizes the thinking force behind the evils of the collectivism in the society. Though he resents Equality 7-2521, the Collective 0-0009 is shapeless and cowardly and deeply reliant on the Council. When Equality 7-2521 meets the Golden One, his search for individualism is destroyed because he enters into a new phase in his life in which there is more to life than battling collectivism.
He ventures into perfection and utopia that love insinuates as he no longer desires to deny that he prefers some of his fellows over the others. The Golden One is the name given to Liberty 5-3000 (Rand 19). Because the protagonist thinks about her all the time and his desire for love is overwhelming, he gives himself to the illegal deed. In so doing, he no longer presents to readers an individualistic Equality 7-2521, but shows to them that he is swept off by the utopia which love brings.
Moreover, the Golden One gives the protagonist the privilege of having a meaningful relationship with another human being. According to Equality 7-2521, he feels all of a sudden that the Earth is good and that it is not a burden to live (Rand 19). It is evident from the beginning that the Golden One tends to be haughty and proud and does not recognize all of the constituents of the society except for Equality 7-2521. The Golden One strongly adores the protagonist because he is the bravest and the sharpest among the brotherhood.
Such qualities of the protagonist make her subservient to him almost instantly as she initiates to take care of him as early as the third time they meet. When she follows him to the Uncharted Forest, she becomes the possession of Equality 7-2521 totally and she remains in that manner until the end. Individualism in The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood’s novel explores the theme of female subjugation set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic country that has replaced the United States of America in the map (Foster 6). The story is being narrated by Offred, one of the handmaids in the state.
It is noted that the handmaids in the country are assigned to bear children for rich couples that have trouble conceiving. The country is founded by a male chauvinist, theocratic-organized military coup as a radical response to the pervasive social, moral and ecological degradation of the country. At the first chapter, the narrator briefly describes the differences between the social setting of the country prior to the establishment of the new republic and the present time in which women are seen as objects whose value depends on their ability to give birth (Atwood 9).
The novel presents to readers an individualistic view of women as utilities for childbirth. Offred, the narrator, considers herself as a walking womb because of her duty as a handmaid whose only duty is to help maintain the declining white population (Foster 6). In the newly established country, women are stripped off of their economic and social opportunities and privileges and are recognized for their role of giving birth.
The wife of the Commander, Serena Joy, fails is ashamed of herself because of her inability to conceive and somewhat envies Offred for her reproductive capacity (Atwood 20). Offred is a patronymic slave name that refers to the Commander which she serves, such as Fred. Offred is the protagonist in the story who reflects the failure to possess an individualistic attitude by engaging in an affectionate affair. Following a continuous prodding by the Commander’s wife, Offred succumbs to an illegal affair with Nick to save herself from the uncertainties which lay ahead (Atwood 226).
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 September 2016
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