Avoiding Conflict and Rejection: The Impact of Social Identity
A need to avoid conflict and rejection from one's community drives the wish to be right and accepted in society. Second, as illustrated by Michael Finkel's The Stranger in the Woods and Michael Harris' Solitude, developing and keeping a social identity and the desire to achieve group goals frequently put one's happiness and the need to fulfill other personal goals and objectives at risk. This essay tries to demonstrate how social identity prevents a person from feeling content and at ease. The stranger in the woods is a story about a young man in his early twenties who left his home, Massachusetts and headed to the forest to disassociate himself from other people only to be arrested for stealing food. He had survived many winters and summers while leaving in a tent where he had devised different ways to preserve his edibles and avoided other dangers in the woods using his witty and courageous means. This book is a vivid narrative about Christopher Knight as he gives an account of his life and how he attempted to alleviate himself from the social conformity. Contrastingly, Harris in his work, solitude, guides people on how they can live a life with both solitude and companionship and fail to compromise the other. Despite the wide difference between Harris' and Finkel's works, there exist a common ideology that social identity cost one's happiness and satisfaction.
The Desire for Social Rejection: Knight's Struggle
Knight has spent over two decades away and does not want to be associated with his parents. It is a social norm that one is associated with most of their close relatives such as parent and close acquaintances. However, it is a different case with Knight since when asked about his parents, he admits that he does not want them to know whether he is alive or not. "But if they are alive, he hopes they never learn that he’s been found" (Harris, 22). Associating social identity by linking Knight with his family inhibits happiness to a large extent. He also admits that he would be happy to know whether they are alive. This shows that he desires to have a social reunion with the parents, but this makes him unhappy. Furthermore, he is disappointed that they would consider him as a thief and not the son they raised. Knight was running away from other people as a way of finding happiness and satisfaction away from society's beliefs and norms.
Finding Happiness in Solitude: Knight's View
People tend to seek happiness and satisfaction in different sources. Knight's running away was motivated by his desire to seek happiness not in solitude but away from the social norms including touch and communication. According to him, happiness meant doing what one believes to be the right thing and not what society dictates. This environment provided him with a feeling of satisfaction and happiness that he could not find while contacting with other people. Furthermore, it was not his will to reconnect with other people. However, going against the social norms was considered crazy and stupid. For instance, people from the cells nodded whenever he attempted to initiate a conversation. They considered his character as witty and stupid. No person was willing to be associated with a person of that caliber; in fact, society considers such people as unfriendly and dangerous. The society dictates that communication is important. Knight was attempting to adhere to this rule. However, this costs him his happiness since none of the inmates was ready to converse with him. One of the letters written by Knight from the prison shows how he was disappointed by his fellow inmates who preferred staring at him rather than answering his questions. "They just stared at me unabashedly, as if I were some oddity on display" (Harris, 33). Well, people are not only forced to do certain things to conform to society, but they are also forced to do other things against societal norms as a means of finding happiness and satisfaction.
Challenging Societal Norms: Dr. Bone's Choice
Dr. Bone is expected to be weak and weary as a result of staying in isolation for a long time, but she surprises many when she comes out of the isolation both strong and sane. After staying in isolation for a long time, it is expected that one wears out and from depression, and probably some develop symptoms of madness due to lack of certain important aspects such as communication. The media and the public expect Dr. Bone to have suffered and as a result slowly walk to the courtyard as a weak person. A journalist had written a lot regarding her condition only to be proven wrong by her appearance. She decided to go against society's norms where people tend to seek court's attention and mercy by dressing depressed and weak facial expressions. Furthermore, she seemed to enjoy her condition both in public and in the cells.
Dr. Bone mocked police officers whenever they came close to her cell. The society expects that women should be respectful and more so fear police officers. However, Dr. Bone chooses to assume this norm and decides to annoy any authority who approached her. Her behavior was meant to initiate further longer conversations with the officers since she rarely saw them. Annoying police officers gave her happiness despite it being against the social norms. Dr. Bone also attempted to go against the social norms to achieve her happiness despite being denied the right to do so. At one time, Dr. Bone asked for a haircut from a barber, but she was denied since it was against the social norms for women to keep short hair. However, this denial did not deny him an opportunity to shorten her hair. She used her bare hands to tear each hair. She also refused to speak Hungarian. She claimed that this language was barbaric and instead she began to speak German, French, English, and Italian. Surprisingly, she was fluent in all these five languages. She was going against societal norms to seek happiness and satisfaction, "She offered instead to speak German, French, Russin, English, or Italian- She was fluent in all five" (Finkel, 6).
The Consequences of Social Identity: Knight and Dr. Bone
In conclusion, it is evident that people desire to seek social identity to get happiness and satisfaction by doing what society dictates. However, they end up losing more than gaining. Knight and Dr. Bone are clear images of people who seek conformity by devising their own strategies and methods. They sought to gain happiness by either doing what society dictates or going against the social norms. However, they achieved their happiness and in some cases failed to achieve satisfaction since society does not change unless people change to suit the society.
Finkel, Michael. "The Stranger in the Woods." (2017).
Harris, Michael. Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World. Doubleday Canada, 2017.