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The only way that one can discover one's true self is by being an outsider. The only way that one can discover his/herself is by spending time alone, with his or herself. Unlike people who belong to a particular group, an outsider isn't defined by the group, but by their individual character. So, in order for a people to really know or to fully understand themselves, they must break away from the ways of the majority. By doing this, they are able to discover their own place in the world.
In order for individuals to fit in a group, they are required to posses or lack certain qualities. In order for this to happen, many people struggle, and do things sometimes even beyond their comfort zones just to be accepted in society or a group. Others don't seem to mind at all and are perfectly happy with their social status. It is these that have fully discovered and understood themselves.
There are several aspects that separate an outsider from a group or society. Though they are not necessarily looked down upon by the 'popular' group, outsiders are not generally accepted or welcomed into the grouping. It is important to note that it is not the individual that makes him or her outsider, but rather the standards that are set by other individuals. If other individuals do not match up to these standards, then they are instantly stereotyped and looked upon as being outsiders.
Although popularity is not the only factor that can set an individual apart from a certain group, the idea of being included or excluded from a certain group has, and will always remain. Everyone will be classified as an outsider at least at one point in their life as a result of the standards that our societies set for people. Outsiders are usually considered inferior, and most of the time, are not given a chance by society or the popular group to prove them.
A good example of an outsider is Huckleberry Finn. His story is narrated by Mark Twain in his book, 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. The story is told in the first person by Huckleberry Finn, simply known as Huck and who is a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is set in the town of St.Petersburg, Missouri, during the pre-civil war era, when slavery was legal. This particular story is an often looks at the entrenched attitudes in society, particularly racism. The author uses his characters and settings to illustrate that civilized society is marked by profound selfishness, cowardice, and a lack of knowledge (Twain).
Huck, who was born into the lowest level of society, is placed under the care of the widow Douglas, who, together with Miss Watson, her sister, is attempting to civilize him. Though Huck appreciates their efforts, he finds civilized life confining and decides to escape the house. Despite the fact that Huck has been taught that slavery is normal and that abolitionism, a movement aimed at ending slavery, is wicked, he befriends Jim, Miss Watson's slave, and decides to help him escape. The two meet up with Tom's self proclaimed squad, who plot to carry out adventurous crimes. His life is changed by the abrupt appearance of his abusive and drunkard father, 'Pap'. Pap forcibly gains custody of Huck and the two moves the backwoods, where Huck is locked inside his father's cabin. Equally dissatisfied with life living with his father, Huck escapes from the cabin and elaborately fakes his own death.
While living comfortably in the wilderness, Huck happily encounters Miss Watson's slave, Jim, who has also run away, after Miss Watson threatened to sell him downriver, where living conditions for slaves were harsher. At the beginning, Huck is conflicted about the morality and legality of helping a run-away slave, but having considered himself as an outsider to society, instead of following society's rules, he decides to make his own and help Jim. As they travel, Huck begins to learn about Jim's past and his difficult life, making him change his opinion about other people, slavery and other aspects about life in general.
In this story, Huck is illustrated as a common person, living a simple life. The failures of Judge Thatcher, who believes that Pap's rights to his son are more important than Huck's welfare, cause Huck to not only distrust society, but to question its morals as well. It is because of this that Huck begins to discard his teachings on race, taking his own stand to set Jim free, no matter what physical or moral cost lie ahead. He rejects the conventionally civilized society; by doing what he feels is morally right, thus becoming a truly civilized individual.
The main theme throughout this story is that people must live outside of society in order to be truly free. When an individual lives outside of society, they do not have to follow all its laws in order to try and please everyone. Such people are not held back by the fact that if they do something wrong, though morally correct, they will be punished by their actions. This theme is revealed where whenever Huck goes back to society, he finds that he cannot live within its limits, denying who he really is and always finds himself making up some false identity.
This theme is also demonstrated by Jim, Miss Watson's slave. Though she was not the one who made him that way, and no matter how good Miss Watson was to him, to society, he was still only a slave. It is only when Jim runs away, that he discovers how to be truly free and not live within society. This story implies that to be accepted within the society's limits, one must follow its rules and ways, but if one lives outside it, he or she is set free of any rules, influence or customs that may guide him or her into trouble.
The' Catcher in the Rye' is a novel by J.D. Salinger and recounts the life and adventures of a sixteen year old boy by the name Holden Caulfield. The majority of the story is set in December 1949 with Holden sharing his encounters with students and the faculty of Pencey prep, whom he criticizes as being phony or superficial. Holden is expelled from the school for having poor grades and he packs up and leaves in the middle of the night after a disagreement with his roommate. He takes a train to New York, but checks into the dilapidated Edmont hotel as he does not want to go home. He spends the evening there, and has a clumsy encounter with Sunny, a young prostitute around his age. Sunny becomes annoyed with Holden and leaves, when he tells her that he just wants to talk, though he still pays for her time (Bloom).
Holden spends an overall of three days in the city, which is largely characterized by loneliness which leads to his drunkenness. Later on, he sneaks into his parent's apartment to visit Phoebe, his younger sister, who is the only one person he seems to be able to converse with. He leaves his parent's apartment and drops by to visit his previous English teacher, Mr.Antolini, who offers him a place to sleep and advice on life. He leaves and spends his last afternoon wandering in the city and later decides to move out west. This plans, he relays to his sister who decides to go with him, but Holden refuses and eventually decides not to go. While watching Phoebe, he decides to go back home where he alludes to "getting sick" and living in a mental institution and that he'll be attending a new school in September.
Holden's constant criticism and dislike for 'phonies' or superficial people reveals how individuals in society are becoming mechanical by following the same old path of life as they know, making all of them seem fake and lack original ideas of their own. As a result of not being able to fulfill the credentials set by society to live at and outside school, he develops a negative attitude to all people who seem to be content with their "phony" pleasures of life. His views on society are consolidated from the experience he receives by living as a rich boy on the streets, and as a teenager at a respectable private school. He ignores the opportunities of a perfect life given to him and is persistent on not being the same as everyone else.
Though he is rejected by women on account of his age or his "strange" behavior, he has utmost respect for them and does not acknowledge their mistreatment by other males. He befriends people not accepted by society for being different, such as Ackley, because he understands the feeling of rejection and loneliness and can therefore relate to him. He feels strongly about certain identities that society and people around him have assumed, and is displeased by people's wish to achieve only material rewards out of life. In this story, Holden proves the importance of being original, not following life's path that has been created by an imperfect society, but rather, following one's own path of identity.
Catch-22 is a historical novel by Joseph Heller, an American author, and tells the story of John Yossarian, who is a member of a squadron's community, though alienated by it. Even though he flies and lives with the men from his group, he is labeled as an outsider because many of the men think he is insane. Though the system of values built around him is to risk one's life in order to save others, Yossarian's primary goal is to do the opposite, avoiding risking his life whenever possible, as he seizes a logical idea that he should try to preserve life. As a result, he ends up redefining heroism as simple self-preservation (Heller).
His persistence on self-protection creates a conflict for Yossarian because even though he is determined to save his own life, he is concerned for the other members of his troop and is disturbed by their deaths. In the end, Yossarian is unable to choose himself over others when offered a choice between his safety and the safety of the entire troop. This concern for others complicates Yossarian's logic of self-protection, and creates its own catch-22, that the moral concern for other's endangers ones own life, yet, life is not worth living without an ethical concern for the welfare of others. Yossarian eventually escapes this problem literally walking away from the war, an action that refuses the possibility of becoming an officer who risks his life for meaningless reasons.
There are several other instances where characters have gone beyond society's expectations, and ended up being labeled as outsiders. A good example of this is revealed in the book 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull', where the main character, Jonathan seagull is termed as an outsider for his refusal to accept the norms of his community. Another character is Jonah, from the novel 'Cat's Cradle' by Kurt Vonnegut, who, like Huck and Yossarian, is viewed as an outsider, and struggles to be a realist and belong to no one and nowhere.
From these characters, I learn that one should struggle and create his or her own path, though it means being labeled as an outsider by society, and avoid the inborn trend to do some things, just because it's in style. Though the tendency may seem easier at that point of time, it is expensive in the long run, as a person may end up losing his or her originality.