Family is one of the most important aspects of the majority of the contemporary individuals. Family, the connections, relationships, influences and processes within it are studied by sociologists and psychologists, historians and anthropologists all around the world.
Family is the first society a human being gets to interact with, this is why family is what shapes peoples main values and attitudes, forms their characters and influences their behaviors, although the understanding of family, its meaning and the inner family relations have never been exactly what they are today.
In the world of nowadays family is defined as a group of persons composed by a couple of individuals and their children, or a number of blood related people. Family normally has a hierarchy, so within it there can be one leader or several individuals sharing leading positions. Family relation patterns may change over time, as children grow up and the attitudes and social roles change.
In the families of the past that formed within a patriarchal society, men used to obtain leading roles based on their gender, and this perspective did not change over time, so even after growing up daughters were under the pressure of their fathers, obliged to follow their command. In many cases female siblings also were to obey male ones.
“Lieutenant Nun” by Catalina de Erauso is a story of a non-standard woman that used to dress and act as if she was a man. Catalina’s behavior was a scandalous rebellion against the norms and priorities of her society. “Sundiata” features a male protagonist, though he is also a member of a patriarchal community, where polygamy is permitted and were entering a marriage, a woman had to give up her freedom and “say farewell to her youth” (Niane 11).
Sundiata rebels against his half-brother manipulated by his mother Sassouma. This way both works explore conflicts happening within families and feature rebellious characters that go against the accepted orders, and who are often challenged by the members of their families.
Studying family helps the modern people understand what it means to be human, what kind of behaviors used to be adopted as normal before and compare them to the modern values and relationships. Family relationships evolved a lot though the course of human history, although there is one aspect that has never changed over the centuries – the children’s desire to protest and disobey the orders and expectations of their parents. This is widely practiced by the young people today and it used to be a big problem in the earlier times.
Both Catalina and Sundiata fight the kinds of future prepared for the by their parents. Catalina was expected to enter the Dominican order, but she decided to leave the monastery, even though she found herself “not knowing which way to turn or where to go” (Erauso par. 3).
Sundiata faced a different kind of issue, his half-brother Dankaran, who was under the pressure created by his mother, the woman stimulated the sibling rivalry between the boys saying that that one of them is unequal to the other, forcing Dankaran to rule and get rid of Sundiata. The common belief that the family should come “first” is not supported by these works. The main protagonists are in the state of rivalry with their family members.
In the earlier times, sibling rivalry in the adult life was inevitable because they were supposed to inherit various parts of the father’s capital, and often older children were the ones to get the best titles and the biggest amounts of riches. Confrontations often with lethal outcomes were not a rarity. This way Sundiata reclaims the kingdom that used to belong to his older brother, and Catalina ends up killing her own brother during a duel, where they both were seconds of different sides.
These particular characters survive in spite of the danger presented by their relatives, their families rarely nurture them. Modern family values changed quite a lot, but there are still sibling rivalries for the capitals of parents, for the influence, and favor. Confrontations of this kind often start in the early childhood when the older sibling becomes jealous and pressured due to the appearance of the younger one.
Traditionally, the term “family” refers to blood relatives or spouses, but it is not rare that very close friends are called that way these days. In the earlier times, the so called “brotherhoods” existed. Unrelated members could take vows and form very devoted relationships as if they were a family. Both Sundiata and Catalina form some close relationships within the course of events of their lives, yet they mainly walk and fight alone.
A family is rather important in the life of the majority of people. Even though families carry a lot of benefits such as support, care, affection, understanding, they can be also the sources of people’s worst pains, fears or complexes. Family is something so crucial for us, it gets under our skin, so when it generates kindness and love – it creates a lot of good for people, but when it becomes hostile or cold it has the capacity to hurt a person in their very heart.
Erauso, Catalina de. The Autobiography of doña Catalina de Erauso. Web.
Niane, T. D. Sundiata, an Epic of Old Mali. Trans. G. D. Pickett. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2006. Print.