Perhaps, fear is one the most widely spread vices of society, as it provokes intense and negative emotions. The fear and horror is usually generated when people face the Ugly as a social and aesthetic opposition to the Beautiful. Provoked by social prejudices and vices, social fears are revealed and criticized in literature. A special consideration requires different interpretations of social fear in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Chinua Achebe’s literary masterpiece Things Fall Apart, and William Golding’s Lord of the Files. All these works render this category through different philosophical concepts, such as the fear of the unknown, the fear of the ugly, and the fear of communication and contact.
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Shelley’s Frankenstein’s image of social fear is rendered through the creation of the social monster embodying all the fears of the society through ugliness. In the novel, the Ugly remains the main obstacle for entering a usual social order. The author manages to show that social fear and distrust doom Victor to eternal loneliness and alienation. People’s reluctance to accept the Ugly to the society is guided by the fear to distort the ideal social system dictating the different cultural, psychological, and even physical norm. Therefore, Frankenstein is a material personification of the vices and evil accumulated in one human creature. Finally, the psychological and stylistic approaches chosen by Shelley explain fear as a disrupt feeling subjected to social norms (Shelley 265).
In the novel Lord of the Files, the author analyzes the phenomenon of social fear of the unknown and of being weak. The main protagonist builds his life in the society that does not recognize weakness and encourages those who devote their life to hard work and self-determination. The hero is always under the pressure of the unknown so that he should encounter unexpected situation demanding courage and confidence. Golding identifies a gap between nature and society as if demonstrating the level of social deviation from the veritable values. In that regard, the fear is the result of people’s distorted perception of their origin and humanness in particular (Golding 12).
Achebe’s interpretation of social fear in Things fall apart is revealed through the reluctance and horror of the main hero Okonkwo to communicate with people of an ideal society with highly established cultural and moral norms. Achebe tries to distort the image of ideal social institutions that does not give any opportunity for even minor mistake. The uncompromised society based on the exaggerated concept of fairness and justice makes the main hero and his family live in the constant fear of failure and weakness. As a result, this fear deprives Okonkwo of the ability to think logically thus subjecting his behavior to hidden instincts. This novel is, therefore, the brightest example of how society may create social monsters (Achebe 8).
A thorough consideration of the novel leads to a conclusion that even an ideal society with ideal norms is not perfect, as it rejects the existence of other aesthetic and philosophical concepts. In particular, the novels demonstrate false images of the social order that exclude human categories of the ugly, the weak, and the unknown and affiliate them to the negative ones. Moreover, the reluctance of society to accept a veritable human nature considerably corrupts the original functions and significance of philosophical categories.
Achebe, Chinua. Things fall apart. Great Britain: Heinemann, 1996
Golding, William. Lord of the Files. South Africa: Pearson South Africa, 2005.
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Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. India: Pearson Education India, 1979.