The Issue Of Society Versus The Individual Essay

The Issue Of Society Versus The Individual Essay

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I will discuss the issue of society versus the individual in The Importance of Being Earnest and Siddhartha. Both texts contain the same message; everyone is and always will be an individual, people learn and grow through mistakes and experiences based on individual decision; conforming to a societal ideal will not satisfy any individual in reaching the good life. In Siddhartha, Siddhartha reaches enlightenment following his inner voice through struggles, evolving into an enlightened individual. Contrarily, In The Importance of Being Earnest, John Worthing conforms to societal expectations and remains a superficial character.
Beginning with Siddhartha, Siddhartha is the ideal boy, beloved by all, “They all loved Siddhartha he brought joy to all he delighted all” (Hesse 4). Although Siddhartha fulfilled his community’s expectations, he was not content, “Siddhartha did not bring joy to himself… he had started to feeling that his father’s love and his mother’s love, and also his friend Giovinda’s love would not make him happy forever…” (ibid). Siddhartha sought enlightenment, but believed enlightenment was not reachable through his community’s Brahmin practices, so he leaves to join the Samanas. This is Siddhartha’s first act of individuality, he fights against his father’s and community’s wishes to go on his own.
In The Importance of Being Earnest, the main character is John Worthing. He is respectable gentleman in Victorian society even though he does not seem to enjoy the obligations of being such. He is the guardian of Cicely Cardew, and believes that since he is a guardian he must be very moral even if he doesn’t not enjoy it. He states that “A high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either o...


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... from an ego suppressing Samana, to a sensory indulging businessman, to enlightenment individual, can be observed over the course of the novel. No such change can be witnessed for John, he is the same superficial character that he was in the beginning. John’s actions were not a result of an individual decision, but a result of trying to fulfill societal expectations while fulfilling his own, which caused him inner conflict. Wilde and Hesse both demonstrate in their works that the key to a good life and contentment is by following individuality rather than societal expectations. There is no escaping an individual’s inner voice, whether one decides to embrace it or shun it in favor of society, it will always remain. Eventually an individual will find themselves in either in contentment a result of following it or dissatisfaction with the path society choose for them.

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