Society and Man

Society and Man - Matt Le Rels 1001 Professor Reiner...

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Unformatted text preview: Matt Le Rels 1001 Professor Reiner 1/24/10 Society and Man “The two statements, that society is the product of man and that man is the product of society, are not contradictory (Berger 1).” Society and culture, two intangible structures created by man, have always played a major role on how we go about living our lives. There are two very important terms proposed by Peter Berger in his piece The Sacred Canopy, internalization and externalization. Externalization, everything both mental and physical that man puts into the world, explains how man has created culture and society. Internalization, everything both mental and physical that affects the way man chooses to live, explains how society and culture can both shape and destroy man. These two concepts are very evident in the novel Samskara, which revolves around a Brahmin community. The principles mentioned in Berger’s essay are evident in many areas of the novel Samskara . Throughout the novel, a fellow Brahmin named Naranappa dies, and any time a Brahmin dies it is the duty of another Brahmin to carry out his death rites; however, no one wants to do it because he has been unfaithful to the rules of Brahminhood. Looking for answers on who should do the rites, the people turn to Praneshacharya for answers. This is a prime example of externalization. Here the community has a set of rules that were developed long ago, and no one can seem to recall why it is that they continue to follow the rules other than a fear of consequences that also were fabricated by the community thousands of years ago. The fear of these consequences and the rules that they are suppose to follow end up dictating their lives and every decision that they make. In Berger’s essay he talks about how the society and culture that is constructed by man can come back to destroy man. Applying this to Samskara we see how the culture that is built in their community ends up ruining the reputations of those who do not strictly follow cultural norms. For example Naranappa is endlessly criticized for consuming alcohol, sleeping with low caste women, and eating meat. Praneshacharya is also terrified about what will happen to him after the rest of the agrahara finds out about him sleeping with Chandri, which ends up driving him out of the agrahara. Another concept proposed by Berger is that society assigns certain roles to individuals that the individual is obligated to fulfill. He goes on to say, “He can even say that he does no like to perform this or that detail of the role, but must do so against his will  ­ ­ because the objective description of the role so dictates (Berger 14).” There is a good example of this when Praneshacharya is leaving the agrahara. He encounters a Farmer who asks him a favor. Praneshacharya then says to himself, “Even if I leave everything behind, the community clings to me, asking me to fulfill duties the Brahmin is born to do (Samskara 96).” Here Pranshacharya has discovered that even though he has not followed the rules as an acharya should, he still feels obligated to carry out the duties. This same concept can be seen when Praneshacharya’s wife mentions that he should remarry since she is an invalid and cannot satisfy him. He quickly dismisses her proposal because of the fact that he has been given the role of her husband and refuses to leave her until she eventually passes away. Despite the fact that society and culture are two things created by man, they both can do terrible things to individuals. There are substantial penalties for not following cultural norms that to a certain extent everyone is pressured into doing the same things. In our society today it is easy to get ostracized for things like your taste in music, clothing, etc. It is amazing how something created by man can do such terrible things to the very people who created it. ...
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