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Week 9--Thinking about our election choices

pbrodfue's picture
On page 365 of Prodigal Summer, Deanna reflects "it didn't matter what she chose." Today--after the election, and two-thirds of the way through a course on choice--what do you think? Does it matter what you chose?
jpfeiffer's picture


I feel very pleased with the idea that I had the opportunity to participate in the 2008 election, and the candidate who I supported was victorious. I think that every vote had an impact, regardless of the idea that an individual's vote is one in many. I think that if everyone had the mindset entering the election that their vote was not important and did not matter, than only a trivial number of people would be motivated to vote. Clearly, this would not be beneficial for the country as a whole. Nonetheless, it is the decision of each and every individual to vote.
pbrodfue's picture

You Tube - Milgram Experiment

Take a look -
Yellow's picture


I think that people do have power over their lives and the ability to make choices that have weight. The kind of choice that Kingsolver writes about is actually about instinct: we do not have power over our biological choices. For example, we don't have power about who we fall in love with, because attraction is based on unconscious forces, namely pheromones--sex attractants that we cannot smell, but others pick up on and are then attracted to us.

However, we do have the power over where we live (mostly), and what kinds of people we meet, so in a way, we do have power over who our friends and lovers are.

And as far as elections are concerned, I strongly disagree with people who say their vote doesn't count. Of course it does! Its not like there are billions of people in America voting, so every vote does count if you consider all the people who came out to vote in this election and caused something like 99% voter turnout in some counties (like Montgomery and Bucks County) that ultimately helped win the state of Philadelphia and secure the win for Barack Obama.

Yellow's picture


I think that people do have power over their lives and the ability to make choices that have weight. The kind of choice that Kingsolver writes about is actually about instinct: we do not have power over our biological choices. For example, we don't have power about who we fall in love with, because attraction is based on unconscious forces, namely pheromones--sex attractants that we cannot smell, but others pick up on and are then attracted to us.

However, we do have the power over where we live (mostly), and what kinds of people we meet, so in a way, we do have power over who our friends and lovers are.

And as far as elections are concerned, I strongly disagree with people who say their vote doesn't count. Of course it does! Its not like there are billions of people in America voting, so every vote does count if you consider all the people who came out to vote in this election and caused something like 99% voter turnout in some counties (like Montgomery and Bucks County) that ultimately helped win the state of Philadelphia and secure the win for Barack Obama.

stephkim's picture


I think that choice actually does matter. It's your choices that lead to effects and consequences and many times, there is a lot of different options someone can take. For example, in this election, if the majority of Americans voted for Mccain instead of Obama, politics would take a different turn that if Obama had won.

I think that Deanna said this thinking/knowing that some choices are not in her power and she has no decision or say in what choice is made. I do think that the way Deanna would act depending on whatever decision was made would have some affect on the outcome. I feel that Deanna's quote is untrue and is her way of making herself feel insignificant, which is ironic because throughout the book I see Deanna as a strong character.

ihe's picture

I was talking to a friend

I was talking to a friend and he asked me if i believed in free will, I said yes. He asked me if i believed in fate, and i said yes. Then he said, you can't believe in both free will and fate, it's contradictory. So does it matter what we choose? In my opinion, it depends on the types of choices we make and big the choices are. For example, it matters what choices we make for little decisions that immediately affect us, like what we eat or what time we choose to sleep. However when choices and the results are bigger than just are individual decisions, like the election, I think it matters to ourself which choices we make and if we really believe in those choices. However because the population is so big that it does not really matter if I voted for Obama/ McCain, becuase even though they say one vote can change everything, the chances of one vote making the final decision is rather slim.
Aparajita's picture

Very often , the choices we

Very often , the choices we make may not be realized if similar choices are not made by those who are making the choice alongwith us . But , as individuals seeking to be in charge of our own lives , it is important to make a choice in the first place - which is what 64% of Americans did on this historic day .

jfahl's picture

Just Choose

Choice is an integral part of our political system. That also means that citizens must believe that choice matters. For a long time voters felt disenfranchised and stopped voting. The low voter turnout left many groups voiceless and powerless. After watching the elections and the focus on the disenfranchised, the first time voters, and the youth, rather than the "likely voters". I was never convinced that choice wasn't powerful. I have always believed that voicing your opinion and your choices has been incredibly important. But i think for the rest of my generation this could be the evidence they were looking for.
ebrennanpr's picture

Our Choices Matter

Without a doubt, it is absolutely vital to make choices.  On election day, voter turnout was unprecedented with more than 120 million people casting their votes.  Many might doubt whether one vote made a difference, but each individual’s thought process and his or her choice of candidate ultimately determined the election.  It’s also significant that Obama received about half of his contributions from donors contributing $200 or less.  I gave $25 to his campaign, which may seem like chump change, but it made me feel fulfilled.  I played an active role to change the course of our nation's history.

According to Deanna, “the world was what it was, a place with its own rules of hunger and satisfaction.”  If we surrender completely to the laws of nature, choices will be made for us, but we will only be a pawn of life.  In order to avoid apathy, we must take charge of our choices.   If only to maintain a sense of control, what we chose is crucial.

eolecki's picture

Our choice makes a difference

I really believe our individual choices do matter.  Sometimes it is hard to imagine that our choices can really affect more people than just ourselves.  For example in this election, there were many times when I thought it really didn't matter who I voted for or even if I voted at all.  But what it really comes down to is, if everyone thought that then no one would vote.  So in situations like that, you can't be apathetic because if you just wait for everyone else to do something, then it might never happen or not happen in the way you want it too.  There are hundreds of examples of one person making a difference, and that can be countered with there are millions who haven't.  But those people who made the difference certainly weren't thinking that.  We have a lot of power with our choices, and when we don't make a choice we are allowing others to make a choice for us.
aybala50's picture

Does it matter?

So, we're back to choices again? Did my decision on who to vote for in this election make a difference? Ofcourse looking at the big picture it's not hard to say NO your vote made no difference. Out of the millions your vote was only 1 and 1 vote did not determine who the winner was in this election. OK, that's understandable, but again if we look at the facts- what if all of us didn't vote because we thought the "1" vote we would be contributing made no difference? What if this class of 14 didn't vote because heck our vote's don't matter? What if Bryn Mawr student's didn't vote because we're only a small liberal arts school, our votes don't matter...see the bigger picture? If we all had the mind set, "our single vote doesn't count" it would affect a larger picture. Looking at the nation's VERY LOW voting rates, it's interesting to wonder, is that why they didn't vote? Because they thought their vote wouldn't matter? 
lwacker's picture

Jaded Judy and Cindy Cynic no more!

I almost completely agree with Natalie. The simple, almost obscurely miniscule choices I make out of repetition and self-structured procedures all act as stepping stones for the greater decisions in my life. Though my choice of lunch today may not immediately affect my long term health if I continue to make a choice to choose food unwisely I could feel the effects of those long-term misfortunate choices in my overall health.

As for the election, I believe it is the civic duty of every American citizen to vote in elections for elected federal and state officials etc. However, it is a voter's choice whether or not they make informed voting decisions. If voters choice to be informed about candidates  running they can use their vote as an "opportunity of choice" in which they as well as other voters pull together in order to enact change on a LARGE SCALE. It is a choice to abstain from voting, however that choice is indicative of a distancing from the electoral process and therefore and concession of ability to dissent from an elected official's policies. To vote it to be an active enabler of change in one small entity and to hold that power as an American citizen is incredible. 

nmackow's picture


I'd like to think that my choices matter. In fact, I'm absolutely positive that most of them do, at least in regard to my own life and those around me. It is important for me to choose what I eat, how and when I exercise, whether I do my work, what classes I take, etc. These decisions impact my life and affect my overall contentedness. My future profession (something I am currently working towards with my choice in classes and work ethics) will hopefully affect others around me in a positive way. I do not agree with this Kingsolver quote which suggests that no matter what I do, I am just a small part of a larger world. I would like to hope that my choices mean something. 

In regards to the election, one person's vote is not a deciding part of an election. However if a large number of people believe that their vote does not matter, the polls would be deeply affected. In a situation like this, people must ban together to for their choices to mean something. These votes and choices are important; they are the building blocks of an overall decision that will have great impact on the world.

swhitt's picture


As I mentioned in class, I think that how I choose to respond to external factors matters a great deal to me, but that I have very limited control over external events.  When it comes to the world at large, and, specifically, the election... I don't know what large policy difference our choice of president will make. I have personal hopes for certain issues, but no real expectations.  When I walked through my West Philly neighborhood after the election was called, however, my (primarily African American) neighbors filled the streets making music on pots and pans, dancing, cheering.  The look of unrestrained joy on their faces jarred me out of my typical tunnel vision and I realized that this moment made a huge difference for these individuals as they saw the potential for the lives of their children dramatically expand.  It was a big margin and if I hadn't voted (and if everyone I knew hadn't voted) it wouldn't have changed the result a bit, but the fact that I participated welcomed me into the celebration.  I think the fact that my neighbors voted empowered them and personally connected them to historical change. So I guess I think that the choice that makes a difference is the choice to choose, regardless of the long-term effects of whatever choice is made.
akaltwasse's picture

on voting...

Of course it's a nice idea to think that our choices matter, that they have an impact on society or the world.  I like to think that this applies to the presidential election, but only to an extent, really.  I voted through an absentee ballot, and the experience was rather anti-climactic at the moment.  I wondered if anyone would look at this slip of paper that looked like someone had just made a chart in Microsoft Word and sent it to me.  But I don't think voting is pointless...but then that could be because I voted for Obama and he, you know, WON.  Someone mentioned in her post that some voters might see voting as not worthwhile because they can leave it up to someone else.  Can one vote decide an election?  Not one of the people's, that's for sure.  But, as little as it might "count," you should never leave it up to someone else to do something for you, especially when that something is YOUR voice.
msmith07's picture

"If you don't vote, you can't complain!"

My instinctual response is -- YES! Of course your choices matter! Speaking strictly about the election; regardless of the outcome in whichever state you voted for, if you voted, you supported a candidate based on your own personal opinions. Even if the candidate you supported didn't win the state you voted in, your vote still mattered. How so? Because voting, or in general making a difinitive choice, you are solidifying and supporting your opinions, whether publicly or to yourself. Perhaps it's an idealistic view point, but your choices should matter to you even if they don't matter to anyone else.

I have a friend from home, who is a socialist. He is registered to vote and consistently goes to the polls to abstain from voting. To most this may seem like a ridiculous idea, but his ability to choose -- or in this case to abstain from chosing -- really does matter to him. His opinion is that he does not support any of the candidates, but instead of passively sitting back and complaining, he makes an effort to solidify his opinion in his own eyes and in the eyes of the government. My mother's addage rings out in my head: "If you don't vote, you can't complain!"

Shoshi's picture

Fate or free will

In life, many people believe in free will, and many others believe in fate. I believe in both. For many decisions we make in life, there is no choosing. Simple everyday things, such as what your eating choices are if you eat in an organized setting like a Bryn Mawr dining hall, is something you can not choose. But sometimes it is something that matters more; for example, who you fall in love with. You can’t choose to love someone, it is something that happens; as some would say, it is fate. Yet, just like you can choose what to eat out of the pre-selected options you are given, you can choose what to do with what fate gives you. You can choose to marry or live with the one you fall in love with, or you can choose to do nothing about it, or even run in the opposite direction. Deanna did not choose for Bondo to come to the forest, she did not choose to become pregnant, and she did not choose his leaving. Those were acts of fate, and she was right that she had no choice in THOSE matters. But she did have a choice in others. She could have chosen to not talk to him the second time, she could have chosen not to sleep with him, and she could have chosen to ask him to stay  or leave when she wanted, not when he decided to. Everyone has a certain level of choice, but there are things that have to be left to serendipity.

hwiencek's picture


A while ago (as in probably until senior year of high school) I looked at voting as rather pointless.  I couldn't see the point of voting when I was up against millions and millions of other people.  I still would have voted because I think it's a social responsibility, I just wouldn't have felt very impassioned about it.  However, as this election has neared I found myself more and more invested in the election than I ever expected to be.  In this same time period I also started to make more of my own opinions.  I have always been an extremely indecisive and un-opinionated person. While I did have preferences, I never felt strongly enough to want to counter someone else's opinion by sharing mine (some may say this sounds like lack of confidence...I'm not sure). This always bothered me because I never felt like I knew who I was. However, in the past year or so I have found myself caring enough to create stronger opinions and share them.  This is connected to choice because, to me, having opinions is a large part of making choices.  So, I guess to me it does matter what I choose (even if I don't share it) in that it helps me define myself.
lwscott's picture

Do I make a difference?

When I first heard this quote I immediately thought back to the Omnivore's Dilemma and a discussion about vegetarianism. I have attempted to be a vegetarian a few times but as soon as I smell my mom cooking a batch of bacon saturday morning, I give in. In order to make myself feel less guilty for my meat eating habits, I tell myself, "someone has got to eat it, if I don't, it's just going to go to waste." I figure that my being a vegetarian isn't not going to make an impact on the amount of animals being killed. So in this instance, no, I don't think it mattered what I chose. However, as I get older, that insignificant feeling starts to go away. I felt like my vote made a difference. If people always says, "there's no point, I'm not going to make a difference," if people always leave things up to other people, count on other people, then nothing will get done.

mkmerrill's picture


It would seem that to the person making the choice their decision would matter to them because it would have an impact on their life. But is that really the case? When you think about it on a much larger scale, one individulas choice doesn't have much of  an impact  on the world. In Deanna's case she is reflecting on the fact that what she wants doesn't really matter in terms of how it will affect the world around her. The world will remain the same regardless of what she chooses, "The world was what it was." Just as everything in nature people live and die so in the long run individual choice really doesn't matter.


mlapiana's picture

To Vote or Not to Vote?

In regards to the election, individual votes didn't chance much but collectively our votes had a huge impact. Therefore, I believe that each individual has a duty to vote, becuse each vote is part of a large group of hundreds of thousands of votes. If everyone decided that there vote didn't matter than we would have ANYONE elected our new president right now and nothing would change. As individuals our choices make more of an impact on a smaller scale and collecitively they can have larger-scale impact.
lraphael's picture

choices matter?

i think we would all like to believe like our choice matters. in my opinion, my choice didn't matter.  i wish i could say that voting made me feel like i could help make a difference, but i feel more like a fish lost at sea. i feel like it was just another persons opinion but didn't make a difference. hopefully one day i will realize the effects one vote can have.
SaraO's picture

I hope so!

I like to think that my choice mattered. Maybe my choice personally didn't matter, as this election did not come down to a single vote, but collectively the votes of the college students that came out in record numbers did make a difference. I am a part of that group, so therefore, even if minutely, my vote did make a difference. My choice mattered. 

The rest of our choices matter in the scheme of the world to if you think about the butterfly effect. All of our choices will have a chain reaction which will set off a whole other series of choices because we have either opened a new door or limited the opportunity of someone else.  The choice we made is also the result of that chain reaction of choices. So while they matter, they don't at the same time because there are so many choices being made all at once that in the larger picture each individual choice is lost. Basically I'm talking in circles. They matter and they don't matter. Good night. 

cantaloupe's picture

My choices matter

I think that our choices do matter.  Deanna might have thought near the end of the novel that her choices didn't matter because she realized she could not control how Eddie Bondo thought or acted.  However, the last line of the book is "Every choice is a world made new for the chosen."  Our choices about how someone else should be does not necessary have the ability to change them, but it still have the potential to.  Any choice Deanna makes, or I make or anyone makes, is going to affect something or someone, somewhere.

Even though thousands upon thousands of people voted today, my vote still counted.  It doesn't feel like my vote alone will make all the difference, but my vote along with others votes will help choose a very important aspect of everyones lives.

Every choice I make directly affects my life at least.  My choice to come to college will have an immense impact on my life.  And even on a very small level, my choice to be sitting in collier library right now and working on my homework will affect the amount of work I have tomorrow and therefore my stress level.  I think that this course has proven to me even more that my choices do matter.

yhongo's picture

In some situations, our

In some situations, our choices may seem insignificant because it is thrown into a large pool of other people's choices. And yes, no matter what we prefer, some things are uncontrollable. However, I cannot fully agree with Deanna and her belief that "it didn't matter what she chose", because essentially, her decision and her opinion COULD have an influence on others, which in case, would matter. One person's choice may or may not sway another person's decision, but it certainly allows others to see the situation from a different perspective. For example, if I were to choose between watching TV shows and doing work, and I chose to do work, my friend may be influenced to do the same when originally, she was planning to watch TV. The point that I am trying to get across is that even the slightest choice that we make can have an influence on others. It is human nature to be influenced in some way. These small choices eventually build up and could even change the outcome of a large event, such as the presidential election, to an outcome that was not expected. Overall, I believe that no matter how big or small the choices that we make are, every choice is significant because every opinion and every say matters. 
mmg's picture

Does it matter what I choose?

I do agree with Deanna - it does not matter what we choose, since some things are not within our control. It may be to the best of someone's interests to act a certain way, but that does not mean they will choose to act that way or that an external force can necessarily persuade them to act that way. We are on a daily basis thrown into situations we did not choose to put ourselves into. Our authority lies over how we react to the situation at hand. We do have agency over responding to choices, not so much certainty that what we choose will deliver the result we desire. That said, I do not want to be completely reductionist. Not everything is beyond our control, and to an extent it does matter what we choose. What I am trying to say here is that - within limits, what we choose does matter, yet in the larger sphere of action and consequence, our choices are like an individual atom is to a bigger molecule - a randomly orientated moving particle.That particle can make a difference to the molecule, but statistically the chances are not very high - that does not mean it does not happen. That is how it is with individual choices.


In terms of the Presidential election, it really does not matter at all who I choose.  It would, if I were, you know, American ...

emily's picture

responding about response

I agree with what Sarah said in our class discussion that we have a lot of agency over how we respond. While we may feel that we have free will and choice as to many decisions in our lives, what we really have is the ability to respond to our surroundings and choose from choices made for us by other people and by nature. Deanna reflects that it didn't matter what she chose because it's true-- she could only respond to other choices around her. She couldn't choose for Eddie Bondo to stay or go and she couldn't choose whether those baby birds would live or not, she could only reflect and make decisions in her life around that because, as she says, creatures "came and went" and "they would go their own ways, of their own accord". In the case of the election today, we can respond to the choices made in our environment as to who we want to be President. We can't literally choose our president, but we can decide from the candidates who we like the best and go from there. 
mcchen's picture

Our Choices

Ideally, we would like to think that what we choose does make a difference.  I think that we all want to be in control so when we take the time to make a decision, hopefully it affected our lives in a positive matter.  But sometimes it does not matter what we choose since we cannot control the choices of others.  And if someone else's choice affects us then the choice we made would seem like it "didn't matter".   In other cases, there are somethings that just cannot be controlled, such as the weather or the choices of others, so we just have to accept the outcome as it is.