The Nature of Man: A Trilogy of Interpretations
April 17, 2011
“It’s not where you’re from; it’s where you go. It’s not what you drive; it’s what drives you. It’s not what’s on you; it’s what’s in you. It’s not what you think; it’s what you know.” Why do people in society act the way that they do? Many people believe that it has to do with influence from social constructs of society. The above quote, skillfully written by an unknown author, summarizes the quintessential aspects of social constructivism. By definition, social constructivism focuses on an individual’s learning that takes place because of their interactions in a group. An example of social constructivism would be a group of students doing an essay assignment – not only do the “shapes” of text format, proper spelling, and grammatical tools indicate certain things about the way essays should work, but the activities and texts produced within the group as a whole will help shape how each person behaves within that group. Children are encouraged from an early age to construct an understanding of the world for themselves, but are also guided by the moral compasses and values of their guardians, as well as other adults surrounding them. When they mature to adulthood, the children will have then fully developed their own, hopefully altruistic, behaviors and worldviews. However, in contrast, what would happen to the children if somehow the tenuous leash of civilization was to be eliminated from their everyday lives?
This book, Ain’t No Makin’ It, shows the lives of the youth who are living in a neighborhood of low income earners. It shows that people are not poor because they are not ready to work, but it is because of various societal structural barriers that get them entrapped in poverty. The book is about the lives of two distinct units of teenagers who live in the inner- city with one unit believing in ...
An example of how humans are affected by freedom from the imposition of societal rules would be the major conflict in William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies. In Lord of the Flies (LOTF), a group of young English boys find themselves marooned on a tropical island as the only survivors of a horrendous plane crash in the early 1950’s. Left with no adult leadership, the boys struggle with the conflicting human instincts that exist within each of them — the instinct to live by rules and act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good within the group versus the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain superiority, and elicit one’s will. Conflicts between the good found in civilization and the evils present in savagery can be viewed through almost all of the characters in the story, with main emphasis on 3 characters; Jack, Simon and Ralph. Although he is a secondary character, Roger also gives readers an early glimpse into the group’s gradual decline into savagery. As early as chapter 4 of LOTF, some of the older boys display the willingness to violently assert their dominance over the “littluns” by means of physical force. Roger feels the urge to torment Henry by pelting him with stones while he is playing along the beach, but then he remembers the socially imposed standards inflected upon him and immediately ceases the behavior.
Because the castaways have not been on the island for very long, Roger still feels constrained by “parents and school and policemen and the law,” and the boys still believe that the island they reside on is “a good island.” Shortly after, Jack, the antagonist in the story, closes in on and kills a pig in the woods. Jack rejoices in the kill and is unable to clear his thoughts afterwards because his mind is “crowded with memories” of the hunt. He feels powerful and invigorated that he has “outwitted” another creature and then “imposed” his will upon it. Earlier in the novel, Jack claims that hunting is crucial for providing sustenance for the group, which makes it appear like he wants to contribute to the group’s common welfare, however later it becomes clear that his obsession with hunting is instead due to the satisfaction it provides his primal instincts. Perhaps the most controversial excerpt in the novel is when Simon, representative of natural human goodness, exclaims to the other boys at the tribal council that the beast is only the boys themselves. He suggests, as he tries to enunciate his reference to the beast, that “what I (he) mean(s) is…maybe it’s only us.” Although the other boys mockingly dismiss Simon’s suggestion, his revelation is central to the author’s point that innate human evil exists.
When Lord of the Flies was first released, William Golding described the novel’s theme in a publicity questionnaire as “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. ” (Kennard) Since the island is a microcosm, Golding uses it to reflect our world and give comments on it and his view of human nature. In the novel a group of children are stranded ...
Simon is the first character in the novel to realize that the beast is an internal component in human nature, not as the external entity that the other boys believe it to be. Although he is beginning to grasp the concept, Simon does not yet fully understand his own idea until his hallucinatory vision in chapter 8 and final confrontation of the LOTF before his vicious murder. It can be argued that Simon is inherently moral and critics have even drawn biblical parallels between him and Jesus, however these parallels are incomplete. Although Simon was wise in many ways; his death does not bring salvation to the island; rather, his death immerses the island deeper into savagery and moral guilt. Furthermore, Simon dies before he is able to share the truth he has discovered with the boys. Subsequently, we can infer that in order for Simon to comprehend the beast’s existence within humanity, he must first recognize the evil within himself, contrasting any preconceived theories that he is innately good. Lastly, at the very end of LOTF, amidst all the chaos of an all-out declaration of tribal combat, the group of boys encounters a lone naval officer who appears out of nowhere to rescue them. When Ralph, former leader of the benevolent majority, sees the officer his sudden realization of safety and opportunity to return to civilization strikes a nerve and causes him to fall into a contemplative despair. Despite the fortunate sparing of his life, the events that unfolded on the island had a tragic effect on Ralph, as he has lost his innocence and learned about the evil within mankind. Young Ralph will never be able to look at the world in the same light again, and with that realization he “wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy.”
Robert Louis Stevenson and Toni Morrison develop their main characters identities through their novels Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Bluest Eye in a rather skeptical way. In both cases we see stories of people that are not fully satisfied with their lives. The situation is probably even worth, they do not like the context of life that they have to face in their everyday activities. The reasons ...
A second example of how mankind is affected by liberation from the encumbrance of civil edicts would be the major conflict of the movie The Mist, a 2007 American horror/science fiction thriller originally written by Stephen King. In The Mist, members of a small town in Bridgton, Maine, conceal themselves in a local supermarket when a violent thunderstorm cuts off the power. A dense, ominous mist envelops the entire town and conceals ferocious, extraterrestrial monsters creating tension among the townspeople as they fight for survival. When a blood-curdling scream is heard from a man who mustered the courage to venture outdoors and the ground is shaken by violent tremors, the store patrons seal themselves inside the building. A siege mentality takes hold of the customers and speculations of evil forces lurking in the mist swirl among the frightened refugees. The mist then begins to cast a shadow over logical thinking and problem solving and once again, the good found in civilization and the evils present in savagery re-emerge once again to push the boundaries of the human psyche. Unstable religious fanatic Ms. Carmody is a prime example of this, as she believes that the events occurring in the mist are the beginning of Armageddon, the apocalypse.
During the most destructive attack on the store, an enormous flying insect lands on Mrs. Carmody, but flies away instead of giving her a fatal sting. She then views this as a validation of her beliefs, allowing her to gain followers through control by fear and insistence that a human sacrifice is necessary to save them from the wrath of God. Much like the previous source, this revelation is central to the author’s point that innate human evil exists. Because she is devoutly religious, Ms. Carmody also realizes that the beast is an internal component in human nature, not as the external entity that the other citizens observe. Biblical parallels can also be outlined between Ms. Carmody and Jesus, however yet again these parallels are incomplete. Although Ms. Carmody was an influential leader, her death, once again does not bring salvation to the townspeople residing at the store. Instead, her death still causes the civilians to plummet into moral guilt, even though they are able to realize the savagery in their sacrificial rituals and break their ardent cycle of loyalty to her in contrast to the events in the previous source. Consequently, we can decipher that in order for Ms. Carmody to comprehend the beast’s existence within humanity, she must first recognize the evil within herself, as most religions require, again contrasting any preconceived theories that she is innately good.
We have been looking at the nineteenth century story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the post world war II text, The Darkness Out There. Both of the stories focus on split personalities but we must compare the similarities and differences of the stories before we judge how they relate back to the idea of split personalities.We should also consider the context and form of each piece. The Darkness ...
Lastly, near the end of The Mist, David the protagonist, his eight-year old son Billy, Amanda the schoolteacher and a couple others safely escape from the store but find themselves fighting a hopeless battle against the spider-like creatures. With nowhere to turn, no gas left in their car and a gun with only 4 bullets, David shoots everyone in the vehicle and exits the car, distraught and determined to die when suddenly he spots a military artillery vehicle, full of soldiers and survivors. As the mist clears, David falls to his knees screaming as now he must deal with his involvement in the death of his own son. Despite the auspicious sparing of his life, the events that unfolded in The Mist had a tragic effect on David, as he has lost his innocent son and learned about the evil within mankind. Much like Ralph, David will never be able to look at the world in the same light again and little Billy has been mistakenly robbed of a chance at a long, prosperous existence.
A third example of how individuals are affected by abolition from the obstruction of domestic laws would be the major conflict in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the protagonist, an English gentleman in the 1800s named Henry Jekyll, attempts to keep his dark half, Edward Hyde, under control and then eventually tries to prevent himself from becoming Hyde permanently. Realizing the duality of man early on in his research and professional experience in his life as a medical doctor, Dr. Jekyll struggles with the clashing human instincts that exist within him — the instinct to live by rules and act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good within others versus the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy, and evoke one’s will. However, the theme of this novel does not emerge fully until the last chapter, when the complete account of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s mysterious relationship is unraveled. Controversy between the good found in civilization and the evils present in savagery can be viewed through almost all of the characters in the story, with main emphasis on 3 characters; Mr.
... behind Dr. Jekyll's experiment. Mr. Utterson is Dr. Jekyll's and Mr. Lanyon's Lawyer. Dr. Lanyon is an old friend of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson. He ... is hiding in Jekyll's laboratory. The two men break into the laboratory and find the body of Edward Hyde. Hyde has committed ... of humanity." Mr. Hyde is the evil part of Dr. Jekyll. Mr. Utterson is very respectable and honest man. Mr. Utterson is the ...
Utterson, Dr. Lanyon, and Dr. Jekyll. Although he is a secondary character, Mr. Enfield also gives readers an early glimpse into Dr. Jekyll’s progressive decline into savagery. As the novel opens, Mr. Enfield relates to Mr. Utterson how he watched Hyde trample a young girl underfoot. Enfield is asked by his friend to describe Hyde’s appearance, but he is unable to paint a clear portrait. He asserts that Hyde is deformed, ugly and states: “I (he) never saw a man I (he) so disliked, and yet I (he) scarce know(s) why.” It seems almost as if language itself fails when it attempts to define Hyde; he is beyond words, much like he is beyond morality and conscience. Mr. Utterson also plays an integral part in unfolding the truth about the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde as his friendship with Enfield gives him a prominent piece of information, Lanyon, Jekyll and Poole confide in him and he even serves as the attorney for Sir Danvers Carew, Hyde’s victim. It is noted that Utterson “had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.” Utterson has a keen interest in individuals with dark secrets, in those who suffer from scandal.
His unwavering curiosity seems out of place when compared to his dully-respectable disposition, which brings about speculation of Utterson’s own past. Why would one be so fascinated with the skeletons in the closets of others if one did not have any of their own? In order for Utterson to perceive the duality of man and display such an interest in reform, he must first recognize the evil within himself, contrasting any predisposed theories that he is innately good. In chapter 9, Dr. Lanyon describes the horrific moment when Hyde, drinking the potion whose ingredients Lanyon transported from Jekyll’s Laboratory, transforms himself back into Jekyll. Dr. Lanyon was given the choice to either stay and “behold a “new province of knowledge,” or leave an “remain unchanged,” and he chose to stay, as skepticism is a natural aspect of his personality. Having spent his life as a rationalist and a skeptic, Lanyon is unable to deal with the world that Jekyll’s experiments have revealed. Upon full recognition of the evil within man, Lanyon prefers to die rather than go on living in a universe that, from his point of view, has been irrevocably flipped upside down. As the novel comes to a close, the complete story of the Jekyll-Hyde relationship is revealed.
Child development has been a topic of interest of most developmental psychologists, especially in terms of the relationship between a parent and a child (Eisenberg et al. , 2009). There has been considerable effort in establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between a particular approach that a parent employs and the resulting behavior in a child. Unfortunately, the precise connection has been ...
Jekyll asserts that “man is not truly one but truly two,” and he imagines the human soul as the battleground for an “angel” and a “fiend,” each struggling for mastery. Sadly, his potion, which he hoped would separate and purify each element, succeeds only in bringing the dark side to being — Hyde emerges, but he has no angelic counterpart. Once unchained, Hyde gradually takes over, until moral, respected Jekyll ceases to exist. Strangely though, if Hyde were just an animal, we would not expect him to take such delight in crime. Indeed, he seems to commit violent acts against innocents for no reason except the joy of it — something that no animal would do. Hyde has the capacity to understand the moral law but revels in his breach of it and furthermore, for a “troglodytic being,” Hyde seems oddly content in an urban setting. All of these observations denote that conceivably, civilization too, has its dark side.
In reversion back to the theory of social constructivism, the multitude of characters in the above three texts have demonstrated various conflicts of morality in regards to an individual’s learning that takes place because of their interactions in a group. Now that I’ve outlined the fundamental reasoning behind the duality of man, I would like to end with the note of a personal example from my own life. One humid July evening during a summer holiday a couple years back, a friend of mine contacted me to ask if I would like to visit with her in a neighboring town the following day. Overwhelmed with pangs of summer boredom, I was elated to receive an invitation to spend time with friends. During our conversation, I was informed that my friend’s parents would be away on vacation for the duration of the weekend and that she was planning to have a house party that Friday night. Although my friend was an avid partier, her parents forbade her from having guests while they were away from the residence. Disregarding their warning, it was clear that she was going to proceed with the party. I knew my friend’s parents quite well and had a good relationship with both of them, so I felt uneasy about taking part in a party that had not been permitted by them, as I did not want to spoil our mutual understanding.
However, my intense boredom got the best of me and after being persuaded by my friend and a few other acquaintances, I attended the party. Having said that, I had a wonderful time and to this day I consider it one of the most entertaining parties I have ever attended. Unfortunately, the following day, my friend’s parents arrived home early and witnessed the incredible mess we’d all made and was quite disappointed in my friend’s breach of the house rules. I’m unclear what punishment she ended up getting, but because I had left her house before her parents arrived and she didn’t mention I was there, I didn’t get into trouble. Was I glad I didn’t get into trouble? Absolutely. However, since I helped initiate the event, from a moral perspective, it seems only fair that I would receive the same punishment as my friend. I also knew that the most admirable choice for me to make in that situation was to be upfront and admit to both sets of parents that I was in the wrong, but something held me back. I was held back from telling the truth, a value engrained in my brain from a very young age, because the social construct of reality had been removed — only briefly, but still with enough significance to make an impact — from my life. Without the barriers of my friend’s house rules, my friend and I were free to gratify our immediate desires, and although we did not act violently to obtain superiority, we were still able to elicit our will. We did what we did because we wanted to have fun; we wanted to rebel, to be free from the tenuous leash of civilization long enough to have some peace of mind. We wanted to feel good. Is that evil? Defying social constructivism can be categorized as both moral and immoral, which makes it one of the most complex, multi-faceted psychological theories being studied today.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. London: Faber and Faber, 1954
Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bournemouth: Longmans, Green and Co., 1886
King, Stephen. The Mist. Los Angeles: Frank Darabont, 2007
Wikipedia. Social Constructivism. Unknown Location: Unknown Publisher, 2011