Conformity In 'Ambivalence' By Ben Greenman

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Starting with the narrator’s disapproval of Panos’ imminent infidelity, Ben Greenman’s “Ambivalence” presents readers with a protagonist bathed in conflicting emotions. Throughout his story, Greenman shows the futility of trying to bring emotions down to a single understanding and origin of conformity as a result. Societal expectations of rigid standards of love create tension for the society itself. People do something because everyone is doing it, in a way everyone does it because everyone is doing it, creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Panos possibly loves his future wife, otherwise he wouldn’t have wanted to get married, but that love is insufficient; insufficient to get married at least. He is trying to conform to the standards set by the society, but he fails to do so, and thus cheats on his future wife. The story shows how…show more content…
Like there are a million people to love, and how can I settle on one and be sure that I’m not a fool? I have met others. I might meet others. What about Eskimos?”(5).
Still, he tries his best to conform, and gets married. In the neighbour’s eyes Panos might have fit into the societal norms, but this conformity is only external, for the chain reaction of emotions in his head is apparent throughout the story.
Ben Greenman presents Panos as a man filled with imperfections. Not only has Panos had multiple affairs, but he is also a bit hypocritical. He finds the skinny girl dating an older man an atrocity and compares the event with “Bombing Cambodia” (1) . On the other hand, he cheats on his wife with little guilt. In spite of all the shortcomings, readers can understand Panos’ struggle with his own emotions. He even tries to direct the conversation with the skinny girl towards Zimmerman code because somewhere in his mind, he does not want to betray his would be wife. He tries his best to conform. He tries to match the society’s blueprint but is unable to do so and the result is
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