LITERATURE, as a symbolic process has often challenged the norms and social conventions which have been devised for the benefit of the rulers, those in power—usually those with money Without artists and writers or political leaders who deviate from the “status quo” our human civilization is continually threatened—those who cannot adapt to social change inevitably will perish—and take down many others along with them. Any civilization is a process of on-going social evolution. But those in power often struggle to make sure they stay in power, often at the expense of others in that society.
Much of our daily social interaction reveal human desires and needs reflected in the operating rules of any civilization; those controlling forces of society dictates norms, approved conventions and proper behavior. (Such as rules of courtship and dating, taking care of one’s community, family life, building a home, going to work, caring for the children, etc.)
Following the rules is most often a service to society, in one way—but critical thinking, at least in the hearts of writers and artists— allow us to evolve, make change and question the status quo that may eventually oppress us. In order to communicate a social critique or invite an audience to speculate change or discover the problems within the establisher order, artists and writers create codes or a symbolic language—often using exaggeration or literary hyperbole to make a point –raising questions about ordinary or accepted behavior
The story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez operates within a society that enforces behavioral expectations for the characters—although each of them make choices or decisions– with the context of their social milieu or personality—crafted by the author, in modern stories – also within the dynamic context of opposing forces. These stories are also shaped as a representation of the writer’s comments or questions about that society. Sometimes we’re offered heroes who go through a transformation or journey as a form of catharsis. Parables and allegories provide characters who symbolically represent those conflicts and opposing forces that are present within many of us –especially in this country—a society that wants us to conform as well as rebel. Stories offer us the power to question and in doing so, provides a variety of lessons or messages.
The narrative offers readers an opportunity to gain power and feel connected to others by examining repressive rules, conventions or rulers; sometimes the conflict is often a question of embracing modernity/social change while upholding traditions.
For this midterm writing assignment, consider how one story is constructed to reveal, question and assert a social critique or analyze human behavior. You might focus on character development, social context, physical setting, emotional tone, dialogue, flow of imagery and symbolic details. How does the title work to inform the piece you’ve chosen? What comments can you make about the appropriateness of point of view? How does your selected piece deal with social criticism through its use of the elements of story, narrative, or allegory? Additionally, each writer has included intentional symbolic elements meant to enrich thematic and plot trajectory, or shape of the story unfolding. These details lend credibility to your interpretation, so do not forget to include them in your analysis. It’s effective to provide an overview or summary, but don’t ¬simply write a summary; rather directly refer to specific instances of the text that make the piece effective and interesting –as a literary work that explores the issues of controversy or conflcit. You certainly may conclude with your own interpretation of the story and/or the issues it addressed, but first I want you to analyze the piece considering the author’s message. If you wish, you may make a personal connection and social observation after you’ve successfully illuminated the story’s literary elements.
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