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Conformity and Choices

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Benjamin Sperling

on 24 November 2014

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Transcript of Conformity and Choices

The Unknown Citizen & The Uniform
Everyday the Same Dream
Conformity & Choices
Kyle Handfield, Emily Traynor, Ben Sperling, and Alex Fletcher
Generally depict emotional phases, as indicated through colour, and spiritual progression, as demonstrated through clothing type, in Sumita's life.
Yellow sari - Fresh, light, new: Portrayal of new beginnings, the origin point for her adventure, her transformation.
Expensive, pink sari - Extravagant, celebrated transition: A transition into a new realm of the world, Sumita's imposed relationship. The noted heaviness of the material could indicate the weight of a new burden she carries, the burden of another man.

travel sari -


luck for a married woman
Sumita's possibility of a new life in America


her hope for a healthy, happy relationship with this new man... which indeed would be rather lucky.
The clothes in Sumita's travel suitcase: Her home and feeling of familiarity, of belonging: The memory of these clothes and what they stand for help to soothe Sumita when she finds herself panicking in the alien environment of the plane.
Orange T-shirt - Joy: Joy of her new American life. She has embraced a new type of clothing along with a new appreciation of this foreign culture. Thus, she begins to turn away from the garbs of her old cultural society by dawning garments of a radically opposing nature.
Plain white sari - Ending, loss: Somesh's death is the mallet that shatters the magical essence that America had assumed, and all the dreams she harbored in it. It also brings an end to her heightened cultural stature for being wed to a man. She would now, like all widows, spend her time slaving over her relatives' every whim... well at least in the perspective of her people.
Almond coloured blouse and skirt - Independence, contrast, integration: This marks the final stage of her pursuit towards a new persona, a new beginning. This garb demonstrates how free Sumita has become from her culture's stifling grasp. Its bland, creamy colours and professional appearance is a vast contrast to that of the explosive colours and exotic intricacies of her old clothes. Her new clothes serve as an embodiment of her new life and aspirations while rejecting the ironic chaotic and "free" appearance of her former clothes... which were a product of an extremely orthodox and censured culture.
The story of an Indian woman in an arranged marriage learning to love her husband and her new life in America until tragedy strikes.
Evolution of Protagonist
In the beginning events of the story, Sumita portrays a very respectful yet submissive nature in regards to her thoughts and observable actions.
Example: "Don't send me so far away, I wanted to cry, but of course I didn't. It would be ungrateful, Father had worked so hard to find this match for me." (pg. 251)
When Sumita transitions to America, she is exposed to a culture that is radically different from the one of her homeland, which has guided most of her actions up until this point.
Example: "I'm wearing a pair of jeans now, marveling at the curves of my hips and thighs, which have always been hidden under the flowing lines of my saris." (pg. 254)
In the events following the death of Sumita's husband, Somesh, she reaches a point of enlightenment. She has spiritually evolved to openly and fully detest the life of an obedient servant, in regards to her culture's views, and has grown to love the freedom and independence associated with America.
Example: "That's when I know I cannot go back... Because all over India, at this very moment, widows in white saris are bowing their veiled heads, serving tea to in-laws. Doves with cut-off wings." (pg. 258)
Degeneration of Reality
In the beginning, Sumita is very much indoctrinated into the cultural paradigm that defines most of her daily nuances.
Subjectively, her personal reality encompasses that of the idea of her clothes carrying emotions, memories, and comfort.
Example: (pg. 254, paragraph 2)
Her immersion into American culture brings about a transformation in her perception of clothing and, with it, her views as to the character of her culture.
Sumita's clothes are no longer a familiar tool of security to protect from the alien variables present in America, but now assume a manifestation of her suppressed spirit being unleashed into the world.
This also contributes to the collapse of her moral investment in her culture.
The catalyst for the eventual disintegration of the conformist, cultural reality she had so long endured was that of Somesh's death.
Despite America having harbored the evils that lead to Somesh's death, Sumita has embraced the spontaneity and cultural liberty that so defines the land and so still is willing to remain in this uncharted territory in face of the alluring potentials for spiritual freedom.
With this acceptance of her new culture, the vessels that portray her emotions, the clothes she wears, too change and culminate into a solidified image of confidence and comfort in this new realm, rather than her previous attachments to her formal traditional garments.
The Choice and its Aftermath
Sumita's choice was to break away from the conformist traditions of her homeland.
After Somesh's death, Sumita realizes that nothing in her life was for herself. Her emotions, her clothes, and even her habits were for her husband.
Sumita embraces the independence that Somesh's death has granted her, choosing to stay and live her life in America.
Somesh's death only liberates and motivates Sumita to finally live her life for herself.
Her courageous choice to live alone away from the familiar cradle of her culture's care permits her both spiritual freedom and happiness in such liberty.
The choices made in this not-game drive and alter the life of an individual stuck in a bland routine.
Evolution of the Protagonist:
The first round of the game plays out as a perfect day for the average conformist worker.
There are two pathways which the protagonist/gamer can take: one is the pursuit of the very nature of the title, the repetition of the basics of everyday life or "everyday the same dream." Hopefully, the gamer realizes that no progress has been made nor will any be made if the game continues this way. The second pathway is one in which the player is purposely attempting to disrupt the "perfect" sequence of earlier rounds.
The gamer experiences empathy for the faceless individual they control. There is no physical difference between any of the computerized characters, the only way to be individually identified is by their actions. The player attempts to make the character more like a projection of themselves so as to wrest control away from the unseen force of conformity that indirectly influences your character, and at first, the player.
In the end, if the protagonist finds enough ways to be different, the entire sequence is changed. With the change comes the removal of the unseen force controlling the character's life.
Degeneration of Reality:
The degeneration of reality is directly proportional to the development of the character. First, we observe an, overall, average man, faceless to the world, living an average and predictable life. Essentially, he believes himself to be in "control" of every aspect of his life because of a lack of anything unexpected.
As the player begins to diverge from the game's normalcy, the character begins to be more aware of himself as an individual, searching for ways to be unique.
The degeneration of reality is also related to the degeneration of the characters empathy towards his society, leaving him trapped in a state of loneliness and isolation in the face of the true nature of their existence.
Ultimately, his courage to rip asunder the confines of his perfectly regimented little world was what essentially ensured his spiritual freedom... but did it bring him happiness?
The Choice and its Aftermath:
The game is a series of choices. All of the choices have impacts on the character's life. Eventually, these choices culminate with the choice of suicide or to continue to live the same day over again.
The choices do not influence the next day, and it appears that everyday is an isolated event, almost like a dream. The character's choices only impact his life during that single day.
His choices are brave. By intentionally disrupting the natural state of his society, he is allowing for the unpredictable to have its say. This can be very terrifying.
It is only when he seems to defy society in all the opportunities present that the infrastructure finally collapses around him leaving him alone in his own emptiness.
Does happiness follow such numbness? Or is the true understanding of one's existence better than the one imposed upon them?
The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden:
In the most literal sense, this poem is about a man who is found to be completely in sync with societal expectations. This man never questions the society in which he lives. Because there are no conflicts between the man and his society, questions of freedom and happiness are discarded because there is no reason to suspect any issues.
Society believes that all the superficial things valued in an individual are valued except for the spiritual aspect of the individual.
This poem parallels the paradigm found in Everyday the Same Dream.
The Uniform By Marvin Bell
This poem is the recollection of a man of his time in the army through the description of his uniform. He describes his uniform as essentially, an extreme burden, clumsy, and uncomfortable. The haphazard way the uniform is worn indicates that such clothes were completely foreign to him; that he was never meant to be a soldier.
This poem relates to Clothes in that both individuals have an emotional connection to the clothes that travel with them through life.
The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
The Uniform
By Marvin Bell

Of the sleeves, I remember their weight, like wet wool,
on my arms, and the empty ends which hung past my hands.
Of the body of the shirt, I remember the large buttons
and larger buttonholes, which made a rack of wheels
down my chest and could not be quickly unbuttoned.
Of the collar, I remember its thickness without starch,
by which it lay against my clavicle without moving.
Of my trousers, the same—heavy, bulky, slow to give
for a leg, a crowded feeling, a molasses to walk in.
Of my boots, I remember the brittle soles, of a material
that had not been made love to by any natural substance,
and the laces: ropes to make prisoners of my feet.
Of the helmet, I remember the webbed, inner liner,
a brittle plastic underwear on which wobbled
the crushing steel pot then strapped at the chin.
Of the mortar, I remember the mortar plate,
heavy enough to kill by weight, which I carried by rope.
Of the machine gun, I remember the way it fit
behind my head and across my shoulder blades
as I carried it, or, to be precise, as it rode me.
Of tactics, I remember the likelihood of shooting
the wrong man, the weight of the rifle bolt, the difficulty
of loading while prone, the shock of noise.
For earplugs, some used cigarette filters or toilet paper.
I don’t hear well now, for a man of my age,
and the doctor says my ears were damaged and asks
if I was in the Army, and of course I was but then
a wounded eardrum wasn’t much in the scheme.
In the short story there is a theme about cultural conformity. The main character Sumita is conforming to her culture throughout the story.
She is forced into an arranged marriage by her parents because that is what is culturally acceptable.
While she is living in India, she is culturally pressured to dress in a certain manner. Because of this, she feels liberated when she moves to America.
However, even in America, the influence her culture holds has already leaked into Western society.
She must be selectively obedient, pending on the company and environment Sumita finds herself in.
Conformity, at least in this cultural sense, is purged from her life when, unfortunately, Somesh perishes at the hands of a bandit. This event forces Sumita's only connection to her former regimented culture, the in-laws, to retreat back to India, relieving her of her duty to serve this collective presence.
Both of these poems relate to Clothes and Everyday the Same Dream. The Unknown Citizen speaks about the societal conformity of the average Joe, the man who never speaks out. The Uniform tells the tale of the power that clothes have over us.
By: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
We believe that Divakaruni wrote Clothes to show the different sides to arranged marriages. She delves into the controversy of whether or not arranged marriage is masochistic, giving the woman no choice and making her feel like a product waiting to be sold. However, the author also writes about how happy Sumita and Somesh were together, which we can assume is evidence of her belief that not all arranged marriages are the end of the world.
The intent of the not-game Everyday the Same Dream is to make the audience think. How often in a day do we actually think about doing something different? This not-game points out how entrenched we are in our own routines, whether that is positive or negative is a personal choice.
Father: Advertises his daughter to other potential client parents so that he may sell her to their son. Essentially, he encompasses the idea of a father figure in Indian society trying to find an honorable husband for his daughter so as to ensure family honor and not be deemed a disgrace in the eyes of the collective conformists.

Mother: Argues with daughter on the issue of what colour sari to wear when she travels. This hints at the cultural agreement that it is within the parent's power to control every single aspect of his or her offspring's life from clothes, to occupation, to mates, to dreams. This doctrine is quite different from the modern Western point of view.

In-laws: Even in America, Somesh and Sumita must maintain a traditional, respectful demeanor in front of Somesh's parents. This also includes no dancing, singing, or being in anyway flamboyant or distracting in any fashion. This is an extension of India's concrete, regimented maintenance of the acceptable conduct of an Indian citizen, quiet, reserved, and obedient.
He is a beacon for the hybrid Indian who outwardly expresses the same conformist state of being, yet, spiritually, reveals to Sumita the free spirited Westerner that Sumita secretly desires to be. Somesh is the author's ideal Indian husband, in a sense, for he is empathetic, kind, and unhindered by the Indian influence he has been touched by. He has found freedom and happiness whilst seemingly compromising with the imposed cultural order of his people.
The following texts and sources encompass the idea of an individual either consolidating the
necessary to wrench control of their lives back from the
forces that stifle their
spiritual freedom
or obediently allowing such forces to impose the
collective desires upon this person.

Empty Faces
: The people of this game are all faceless. This indicates the homogenized nature of their personalities, interests, dreams, and spirit. It also seems to comment upon a thoughtlessness of the people, a robotic inclination to serve. Why bother with mouths, eyes, and ears if you are not going to bother to use them properly. By properly we mean by using the senses in a fashion that addresses one's emotional inclinations to reflect their spiritual infrastructure upon the world to better it. Not for using it in a way that only serves to empower another power's views. In actuality, one's spiritual designs should oppose that of an established system's so as to better it.
Without a conflict of spirit, change does not ensue and without change, the world becomes dormant. With dormancy comes decay... just in this society the decay occurs within the empty shells that call themselves people, not in a visible fashion.
Personal belongings and environment
: Everything in the game that appears to be personal to the protagonist are the exact same things that all the other workers in the game appear to have. The suits they wear are all matching, the cars they drive are all matching, the spaces they work at bear no difference from the other. None of the people in this game dawn any personal touches that would otherwise identify them as different or unique from society. The outside world is filled with the same orderly, grey buildings that forever watch their predictable inhabitants go about their daily business. Even the protagonist's home is always reset to the same state of being every morning: the alarm is going off, the T.V. is blaring, and the wife cycles through the same recycled lines day after day, dream after dream.
: Most of the objects and beings manifested in this paradigm are grey, black, white, and grim. Most everything is devoid of colour to allow for the player to perceive the world as without interest, as a sort of dying world drowning in its own bleak state of static contentment. There are, however, certain objects that do possess colour. These are generally the vessels that provide the means for the protagonist to display unorthodox, unpredictable behavior that contradicts the methodical nuances of society. Such items include the orange of a falling leaf, the pink of the cow's udder and nose, and even something as simple as the green glow of an exit sign to a roof. An exception to such a statement is the assault of sporadic, colourful flashes from the T.V. but such a stream of colour is so mindless and periodical, it might as well sink back into the penumbrae of grey that eclipses the world.
Elevator Lady
: She appears to assume the form of the part of one's essence that insists upon change and growth. She constantly eggs the protagonist on by saying such lines as "5 more steps and you will be a new person." which the protagonist, and the gamer, appears inclined to act upon. She also serves the pragmatic purpose of keeping track of how many more ways the protagonist can erode away at the chains that bind him.
: Once society has been fragmented by the protagonist's actions, by fulfilling all five means of opposing the conformists, the final level will be devoid of people. This symbolizes the degeneration of the pseudo-reality that has blinded the protagonist for so long, and now that he has unshackled himself and left the cave, he stands alone in an alien realm that his enlightenment has unlocked.
: There are two occasions where suicide is witnessed in the game, both bearing different meanings. The first comes when the character decides to oppose society through destroying his physical vessel so as to free his spiritual being. The second is viewed in the closing seconds of the game as a man identical to yourself plunges from the building's peak. This most likely depicts the final fragment of societies' power falling from the character's mind for now he stands in a world that belongs solely to him. Perhaps it also indicates him, "waking up" from his dream.
The world
: You come to suspect partly because of the title, that the world the protagonist operates in is non-existent or perhaps even a dream. Now this is purely theoretical, but such events as the protagonist being fired, then waking up the next day to still have his job or when he throws himself off a building to only wake up alive the next day, emanates the stuff of fantasy, of make-believe. Everything that occurs or is established in the game may be a metaphor to his life. The redundant nature of every day, the deeply intense moments of such mundane things as petting a cow, and even the deaths. All seem to indicate the man may actually be dreaming. The dream may be functioning as an alert mechanism in the man's brain pointing out that he has fallen privy to a system that holds no time for the little things in life and functions purely on the basis of data and efficiency
: The music is rather eerie, haphazard, and rather cyclical. It seems to enforce the idea of a regimented pace to the protagonist's life, not ever stopping or pausing to allow for moments of reflection as to such things as why you are doing what you are doing for example.
: The graph is present in the protagonist's workplace. It slowly shows a nose-dive in profits as the main character discovers more ways to undermine the status quo. This is probably a direct representation of the degeneration of the illusion around him.
Symbolic and Philosophical Differences Between Short Story and Not-Game
Clothes deals with a cultural conformity whereas Everyday the Same Dream deals with societal conformity.
In Clothes, the spouse is a beacon of the aspired freedom whereas in Everyday the Same Dream, the spouse is an integral part of the conformist illusion of a "good life."
Spiritual freedom probably leads to happiness in Clothes whereas in Everyday the Same Dream, this is not necessarily the case.

Symbolic and Philosophical Similarities Between the Short Story and the Not-Game
Both texts deal with the presence of conformity and the interactions of an individual in accordance to such a preexisting force.
The symbol of clothing and colour and how they relate to conformity are prevalent symbols in both pieces.
The characters in both stories strive for freedom of some kind. It is obviously their intent to be different or independent so as to find their own way... even if it means abandoning the comforts of conformity.
The essence of conformity remains the same in all texts. It is the same entity disguised among different vessels and it is constant, like a current.
This game is run by our human nature to conform to our society. Societal conformity is what drives the game's plot.
When playing for the first time, the player follows the assumed instructions of the round. It is not until the second or third day that the player starts to break away from the norm.
Once the player starts to break away from the norm of the man's everyday routine, they see the both the value of conformity and the consequences of it.
The need to conform to society in this game is so strong, that it seems, at the end, as if there is only one solution.
In everyday the same dream, everyday you conform.
The game is a metaphor for life. following the game and not testing the boundaries, the game isn't fun.
: Both always insist that the protagonist is late for work. This adds to the rushed feeling of the game. There never seems to be any time to "stop and smell the roses." so to speak... that is, unless the character begins to diverge away from such a reality.
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