The Role of Choices in People’s Lives: A Discussion
The everyday life of any person is impacted by a variety of choices that have both small- and large-scale implications for the future. A conventional idea that all actions lead to certain consequences is relevant to any life situation. However, behind any action, there is a choice that predetermines the outcomes and thus becomes a turning point of all life events. These philosophical implications have been portrayed in numerous pieces of fiction. Moreover, not only do the characters of stories display the choice-making options, but the authors’ choices of literary forms and devices determine the meaning and the readers’ perception of their work. In this paper, three short stories written by renowned authors will be analyzed from the perspective of the importance of choice, and the main ideas will be supported by the examples from my experience.
“To Bui Fire” by Jack London
Jack London explicitly and in detail, depicts the story about a young, ambitious, and proud minor who came to Yukon to seek gold and froze to death due to his inexperience to survive in severe cold. The tragic ending of this short story strikes one’s understanding of the value of choice. Indeed, the readers witness two levels of choice-making. Firstly, on a more general level, the character makes a big choice to take a trip although he was advised not to go into the wild nature in such a cold. This choice ultimately led to the man’s death and was his crucial misconception of the danger to which he exposed himself.
Secondly, on a smaller scale, the main character makes a number of small choices that, thanks to the author’s detailed narration, the reader explicitly perceives. For example, the young man took off his mitten for several seconds, and “the numbness touched his bare fingers,” but “he did not put the mitten on, but instead, struck the fingers against his leg” (Kennedy and Gioia 114). This small choice not to put a mitten on immediately has subsequently led to his steady exposure to frost. Also, deep in his mind, the man thought that he “repeated itself that it was very cold and that he had never experienced such cold” (Kennedy and Gioia, p. 112). These little choices might have had a more significant implication and saved the character’s life if he had perceived them as signs showing that his initial decision to travel despite severe cold was wrong.
In my life, I have experienced similar decision-making ambiguity, where I understood that my choice of action might have negative implications but still pursued with my initial intent. One summer in my childhood, my friends and I were spending time near the river, and when someone dared me to swim across the river, I agreed, although it was dangerous. Some people told me not to do this, but I thought that since I made such a decision, I would look weak in the eyes of others. So I swam across the river for the first time in my life; I had not been sure I could succeed, and it might have been an event with devastating consequences. When drawing a parallel with London’s short story, the choices we make force us to be responsible for them, often imposing additional burdens such as a bad reputation or shame for being a coward.
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
In her short story, Kate Chopin managed to encapsulate a big volume of meaning and thoughts about human self-identity. The narration presents the readers with a young woman with a heart problem, Mrs. Mallard, whose friends inform her about the news they learned from newspapers that Mrs. Mallard’s husband died in the railroad accident. After bursting into a cry, the woman locks herself in a room and spends an hour experiencing an epiphany. Although she grieves over her deceased husband, she starts feeling the joy of freedom and anticipated happiness that will come with her living for herself. She thinks that “there would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence,” and she would feel a long, happy life without her husband (Kennedy and Gioia, p. 180). However, at the end of the story, the author reveals that there was a mistake, and her husband is alive. Mrs. Millard instantly died of what doctors called “joy that kills” (Kennedy and Gioia, p. 181). In such a manner, Chopin illustrates the real-life implications of the lack of choice women at the end of the nineteenth century experienced.
Indeed, Mrs. Millard did not die of unexpected joy that her husband was not dad, but on the contrary, because she realized she would not have those happy days alone, she so anticipated. The lack of an ability to choose the life a woman wants is an issue in this short story. However, despite the advancement in the equal rights of men and women, many people still cannot make the right choices. For example, one of my relatives has married a man who eventually started treating her with disrespect, about which she talked to her friends. However, she never decided to leave him but rather adjusted to her husband’s bad temper. Like in the first example of people being responsible for their choices, this situation requires the woman to take responsibility for the choice to marry such a man.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” introduces a narration about a small town where the inhabitants participate in a lottery. All people participate by drawing pieces of paper and choosing a family first and then a particular member of that family to stone her to death. The portrayed communal cruelty and violence provoke feelings of disgust and misunderstanding of why people expose themselves to such a senseless activity. When viewing the implications of this story from the perspective of the importance of choice, one might indicate that often people are not entitled to making choices.
In other words, humans, as society-dependent creatures, act differently when they are in a group in comparison to the times when they are alone. Once the responsibility for some actions lies on many people, it is easier for people to relate to wrongdoing. Therefore, although some choices are wrong, we might still make them if the group to which we belong predominantly thinks it is the right thing to do. For example, I had experienced a similar situation when in school, the children in my class decided to skip a lesson. Not everybody wanted to break the rules, but since the majority of the class agreed, I could not refuse and act against the will of the others. Thus, the process of making a choice is a complex issue that triggers a variety of social, psychological, ethical, and philosophical considerations.
In summation, the ability to make a choice comes with an array of complications. Every choice leads to consequences, thus constituting people’s everyday lives. As demonstrated in the analyzed short stories, the arrogant inability to admit that one’s choice was wrong, the perceived lack of choice, or the group-imposed decision-making all have their consequences. The understanding of these implications helps to look at life ufroma a different angle and realize the importance of wise choices.
Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Longman Publishing Group, 2005.