Gossips existed in all societies beginning from prehistoric, probably because of the curiosity inherent to each human being. If directed constructively, curiosity can bring positive results such as professional excellence and expertise, whereas the consequences of excessive interest in others’ personal life are hardly predictable, and the only stable tendency is that gossips often turn against those who spread them. The theme of gossips enjoys broad popularity among fiction writers, and one of the prominent examples of the corresponding psychological exploration is the short story “Orientation” by Daniel Orozco.
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The short story narrates an ordinary day of office-based routines. The narrator acts as a guide for a new hire of the company by informing the newcomer about the internal business processes and revealing the secrets and mysteries that exist in the unit (Orozco, p.18). At first, the listener learns that the office is divided into small cubicles where employees are completely isolated from others since they are not expected to answer phone calls and are obligated to place all results of their work in special boxes, collected by the analyst at the end of the business day. In an almost official manner, the narrator tells the new employee about the hidden passions, infatuations, and hatred inside the department. Both affection and scorn are not mutual in these relationships, i.e. the employees seem to reject or disregard those colleagues who love them. As the listener’s suspense grows, the secrets are becoming increasingly darker: for instance, one of the women from the department, Anika, once fell into a trance and prophesied the forthcoming death of her coworker’s wife.
The woman and her unborn child really passed away soon, and the narrator easily lets the new hire know that her ghost is haunting the office. The main character also cynically reports that the company has an attractive insurance program that covers the health problems of the dependents, so the widower did not have to pay anything when his wife was resuscitated. Further, the narrator points his or her finger at the staff member who has six daughters and explains that even if all of them develop a serious illness, their health plan will be fully compensated by the employer. The most energetic and lively employee, the woman who likes penguins and enthusiastically creates a corporate culture within the unit by gathering its personnel, is known as a secret bulimic or anorexic. The typist of the department is referred to as a serial killer who cruelly mutilates his victims before taking their lives. The narrator suggests that the new hire imitates surprise when the murderer gets caught and the police visit the office to interrogate his colleagues. It needs to be noted that the office guide avoids evaluator statements and provides all information in the form of the business report, so he or she is absolutely indifferent about the coworkers and seems distracted from the morality-based ideas of good and evil. The narrator simply delivers a presentation of the office microworld with its distinct “polity” and rules.
The poem “Nobody’s Friend” explores the destructive effects of gossips. In particular, such unverified statements about others are deeply offensive, as they misrepresent individuals and destroy reputations. The author of the verse also states that it is impossible to protect oneself from gossips because such stories are not a material enemy but rather a set of myths that live in the collective consciousness of a certain group. Finally, the author raises ethical issues associated with gossips and implies that it would probably be fairer to give to the object of gossips an opportunity to tell about their life by themselves instead of discussing it behind the back of this person: “Remember, before you repeat a story, ask yourself:/ Is it true? Is it fair? It is necessary??/ If not, do not repeat it, /Keep quiet!” (Themodernreligion, lines 16-19).
In Orozco’s “Orientation”, the narrator is presented as a human embodiment of gossip, or a person who has no sympathy for others and appears to be indifferent to the lives of his/her colleagues. In the poem, gossip is referred to as “nobody’s friend” (Themodernreligion, line 10). For instance, the narrator cynically uses the situation of poor Barry Hacker, who lost his pregnant wife, to illustrate the social benefits the company grants. In addition, the narrator shows no tact or good tone, when addressing the passions and infatuations of the office; due to the fact that nobody explicitly states his/her attitude towards the object of love or hatred at the workplace, then sawing such rumors is a manifestation of disrespect for the coworkers.
Furthermore, both the poem and the short story show that gossips are pointless in the context of their communicator and destructive with regard to their objects. In particular, it is stated in the poem that before repeating the story about the third person told by someone else, it is necessary to consider the necessity of sharing such information. Due to the fact that the last line of the verse instructs that spreading gossips be avoided, then such stories normally give no benefits in exchange. In the short story, this idea is presented in the passage about the “office maniac” who murders white males with extraordinary brutality. Although everybody is ostensibly aware of this employee’s secret occupation, nobody attempts to forward this information to the police, as gossip-based claims are not investigated. Therefore, the office workers continue to live in the atmosphere of fear and danger and further rumors only exacerbate the situation. Such half-true stories are also shown as destructive: for instance, spreading the belief that Colin Heavey has changed following the interaction with the “office prophetess” Anika, obviously undermines his reputations of both employees. Moreover, the inferences about Gwendolyn’s anorexia challenge her physical fitness and ability to perform her work, the woman might also be mistreated as a result of the gossips.
As one can conclude, spreading gossips is a counterproductive practice, especially in the office environment, which has to encourage employees to ace and grow professionally. Orozco’s short story and the poem written by anonymous and entitled “Nobody’s Friend” demonstrate the destructive influence of gossips and suggest that people keep with themselves their beliefs concerning others’ personal life and health.
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Orozco, D. “Orientation”. In Making Literature Matter: an Anthology for Readers and Writers, 3rd ed., edited by John Schilb and John Clifford. Bedford, 2006.
Anonymous. “Nobody’s Friend”. 2009. Web.