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Social Traditions In Medea, The Piano, And The Age Of Innocence

2190 words - 9 pages

Social Traditions in Medea, The Piano, and The Age of Innocence

Traditions demonstrate a set of social norms that have been followed and adapted to for an elongated amount of time. In each of the plots, Medea, The Piano, and The Age of Innocence, the standard set by society was broken and the consequences imposed took form in varying degrees and shapes of violence. Whether it was outright murder as in Medea, or a more subtle but intense struggle as in The Age of Innocence, these consequences serve as the community's opinion of this breach of its expectations for its members.

All societies have many traditions set up, and each of the characters in the books either plays the role of someone who helps to uphold these traditions by following them and imposing consequences on those who don't, or someone who disregards tradition and attempts to point out its pitfalls and shortcomings in modern society. The first role, the person who reinforces tradition, is generally someone who refuses to think outside the box, or does not like the product of going against the tide. This person is comfortable with the way that society has set itself up as far as social norms and expectations. Edith Wharton's character of Newland Archer describes May Welland's innocence as a "helpless and timorous girlhood...she dropped back into the usual, as a too adventurous child takes refuge in its mother's arms." (Wharton 123) May Welland and her family are quite content living within the boundaries that New York society has erected for them, and they fear the changes and consequences of acting otherwise. The adventurous spirit of Newland Archer is dangerous to their precious social norms and unwritten rules for how to conduct oneself in society. However, even Archer bows down to society's rulings sometimes, and it is only Countess Olenska who sees none of their boundaries. If she does, she refuses to care what these collective people have established as "expected behavior" of members of society.

The common assumption is that the people who primarily follow tradition are the elderly, those who are most comfortable in the social norms and wish to keep things as they always have been. However, that is not true, as younger generations such as Medea, Stewart, and even May Welland uphold tradition and societal standards. People such as these see the traditions that their parents have impressed on them as the “proper and right” way to do things. They feel it is their moral obligation to continue to judge others by these standards, and to expect nothing less from those they know and love. Medea performs her wifely duties as she feels is her obligation. She bears her husband two male children to carry on his lineage and loves him completely. However, he does not act with the same reverence for the traditions as she does. He feels no obligation to love her with the same passion, or to stay faithful to her. Jason disrespects Medea and dishonors her by marrying a...

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