Small World, Big Difference
There are countless ways human beings are different. It may be different social and economic classes, nationality, languages, or many more things. In the two selections, The Lesson and Cathedral, it is evident that economic standings separate people and a handicap can block a person from interacting with others. Whether we are siblings, black, blue, American, Asian, wealthy, or poor, there are many differences that separate and unite us.
The American Constitution says we are all equal. Equal? The feminist would disagree; the minorities would certainly differ from that. This equality can be seen in The Lesson, a story about poor, lower-class Americans who struggle to feed families. An older woman in the community takes the children under her wing and teaches them important life skills. An equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, dont it? (399). This lesson is about the staggering socio-economic classes. Many people must go through the tough, daily grind of life, barely scraping by to feed their starving children. Are these poor families supposed to grin and bear their life, holding no expectation of their chance to succeed? The author of this story is clearly trying to boost peoples moral, trying to make them jump up and exclaim that no one is going to take anything from them. The main character in the story does just that, she claims her right to that equal chance.
Not only do we deserve the chance to pursue happiness, but we also have the right to a good quality of life. Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family? (399). We must look at the quality of life, not only in America, but all over the world. There are numerous organizations that provide relief to third world countries, improving the quality of life. We, as citizens of the world, recognize that people are not able to support their family. We are all humans, we all have needs and wants, but not all of us are able to get what we want, let alone provide for what we truly need.
Although we are unalike on a world-view, there are also vast differences in the person-to-person interaction. A blind man is to wear dark glasses (350). In the story Cathedral, there is segregation with the handicapped. Robert, a blind man, is seen as an outcast by the normal narrator. People are held to certain expectations. A businessman (or woman) is supposed to dress in suits and ties, carry an expensive Italian leather briefcase, and drive a Volkswagen; a janitor is poor, a creepy person, and drives an old, beaten-up white van. All of these stereotypes prevent us from interacting; it forms the differences that divide us. The narrator continues to criticize Robert; he is surprised by how he defies the norm and does the unexpected. Whether Robert smokes, drinks, or eats a lot of food, the narrator constantly finds some minute detail to disapprove of. Each person has a comfort-zone, and to some, a person who is different is weird and wrong. As children, we are preached to find our individuality and follow our own beat. However, as we enter the real world, we find that our odd beat is not accepted. Some of us, to survive, blend in with the right crowd, and others continue down their path. The author of Cathedral is urging audiences not to accept social norms, but rather defy them. Robert is shown to have lived a full and happy life unlike the narrator who has lived in a figuratively blind world.
From differing social classes to handicaps, there is another very important difference: freedom. In An Occurrence at Owl Creek, the main character is hanged because he fights for his own beliefs; the freedom of the South from the North. The right to freedom is even questioned and fought over. No matter what, every person deserves freedom. When being hung, the main character dreams of escaping and finding his home again, he wants his freedom. The author of this story is pointing out that we all have some sort of chains that hold us down and that secretly, we all want to escape from that bondage. The audience is encouraged to imagine the sweet taste of freedom
Differences go beyond social classes, economic classes, and stereotypes. The new kid in school is rejected, the computer-geek is teased, and the uncoordinated looked down upon by the jocks; these simple and basic differences, no matter how small and insignificant, create our variations in society. When reading each of the three selections, it is certainly clear that the audience is shown that wanting to better yourself, being different, and breaking free are all things we should try.