It’s Good to be Different!

*Small book plot Spoiler Alerts*

Books and movies are some of the best ways to view what certain societies really think about. In all my years of English classes, we have analyzed why authors write about what they do. One of the main topics that I have seen covered is individuality. Many main characters of novels are average people who go against the social norm of a society to bring about some form of change for the better.People latch on to these characters in stories and movies because they all wish to become true individuals themselves. Many people already believe that they are individuals within today’s society because no one really wants to believe that they do not think for themselves and just follow the pack.  Society thrives on books where a normal human goes against incredible odds to change something bad in society. It gives them hope that one day they too may be able to change something that they do not like about their own lives.

Books are gateways into the thinking of a society.

Books are gateways into the thinking of a society.

Since its publication in 1993, The Giver has sold over 12 million copies and has spent 188 weeks in the USA TODAY’s Top 150 list. The story focuses on a young boy, Jonas, who grows up in a society where everyone is relatively the same. There are no emotions and the citizens just mindlessly follow rules that have been put in place for them. Jonas changes all this when he challenges the societal norms after “receiving” some old memories and finally experiencing emotions. He then tries to change the way that things happen and to break everyone else out of their conformist mindset. “Throughout The Giver, Lowry attempts to awaken each and every reader to the dangers that exist when people opt for conformity over individuality and for unexamined security over freedom.” The giver is a great example of the fears within society of what may happen when we lose our individuality and conform to just one social norm.

The Maze Runner is another book that has become a big hit recently. With it being publish in8231437275_38559829a9_z 2009 and already sold over 7 million copies. The Maze Runner focuses on a dystopian and futuristic world where an organization is testing biological ideas on young boys in order to find a way to make society immune to certain diseases. Most of the boys just follow what the ones before them did and never ask questions. They stay inside the maze because no one ever wanted to think outside of what their predecessors did. They follow the common thinking of everyone else. That is until one boy, Thomas, comes along and tries to think differently. He wants to figure out both why they are there and how to get out. At first because he is asking so many questions the other boys get suspicious of him and scared. They alienate him. He was going against what they had all done up to that point and that was not accepted in their “society.”

These characters are embraced by many because they embody something that everyone wishes they were. John Stuart Mill , a british philosopher, also shares the belief that individuality is essential to society. He stresses that only humans that are making their own choices are truly living. Although Mill does mention that society should be able to control any event that would affect others and not just the individual, this can be very hard to discern the meaning of. No decision or event truly just affect one person. Mill strongly believes that people should focus on harnessing the individuality of others because it could lead to the discovery of new ideas and things that could benefit society as a whole. 

Both, the main characters in these books and Mill, believe that individuality is more important than conformity. The characters in the books bring new ways of thinking to their communities that, in the end, better the lives of those around them. This is just what Mill believed would happen when more people embraced their differences and were accepted for them then being shunned for them. As the reading trends of today show, more and moe people want to be these heroic nonconformists that get their chance to change society for the better and if they all get their ways maybe the world will start to look like Mill’s ideal society after all.

Being an individual can be beneficial to everyone in the end.

Being an individual can be beneficial to everyone in the end.

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One comment

  1. bkriegsm · November 20, 2014

    I applaud your analysis of both The Giver and The Maze Runner. These happen to be two of my favorite books in the world. Do you think that there is a happy middle ground that can be reached through both individuality and conformity? In my opinion, there are ways that subtle conformities within society could be beneficial to society as a whole. For example, on one of our recent reading quizzes we were asked if we believed that Mill would be in favor or against motorcycle helmet laws. I believe that Mill would be due to the fact that he argues that society can put mandatory precautions in place to prevent harm instead of waiting for harm to come. In the case of both The Giver and the Maze Runner, conformity is taken to an extreme. But at the same time, especially in Jonas’s case, individuality is taken to the other extreme as well. I also believe that some aspects of our own daily life perpetuate this happy middle ground. It is amazing to have the ability to be an individual in this world. But I also think that there is a point reached by universal understanding that could be beneficial to society as well.

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