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Social Context and Personal Truths

kgrass's picture


     In class we discussed how people believe something to be true when it is generally agreed on by society. “Truth” and understanding can only be possible when it is put into a common context. Darwin’s story of evolution is convincing because he describes evolution in the context of domestication. He makes the abstract idea of natural selection concrete by demonstrating how selection and change is something the general public can observe. People have made these observations themselves, and they therefore can believe it, or at least begin the process to believing it. 

            Common context is important for any story to be convincing. If the audience can’t relate to a situation, they can’t convince themselves that it is possible. Movies and books can create their own worlds and convince people that, in the context of the book, it is truth. Sometimes these worlds spill over into reality, and people convince themselves that a story can be applied to their social context. How many people waited for their letter from Hogwarts when they turned 11? Really, there is no absolute truth, but only personal truths that people convince themselves of to help make sense of the world and their place in it. 

            In the book The Things They Carried by Time O’Brien, O’Brien brings up the idea that personal truths are all that matter. Everyone’s “truth” may be different, but no matter how untrue a story may be to others, the emotions that they try to convey are true. O’Brien writes “By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain”. In essence, if a story evolves, it doesn’t make it any less true. A story will change based on what is needed for the person or the society to make sense of how they relate to the world around them.   




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