Adolescence and Social Interaction
Adolescence and Social Interaction
Steinbeck’s “Flight” was first published during the late 1930s as one of the short stories in the collection The Long Valley which came three years after Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat gave him a critical acclaim, and which also came a year prior to the publication of The Grapes of Wrath which is, as others may conclude, Steinbeck’s greatest piece of literary work - Adolescence and Social Interaction introduction. “Flight” tells us about the life of a young man named Pepe Torres who killed a drunk man after his first travel to town coming from his isolated farm somewhere in the coasts of California. Followed by his pursuers, Torres fled to the mountains but is hampered down by thirst, the wound infections he suffered and the bullets of those who were trailing not far behind.
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The story of Pepe Torres can be considered as a symbolism for the transformation of youth to manhood, drawing upon the life experiences of man in the transformation as a difficult moment in life rather than being an easy one. The lively portrayal of the setting in the story can be owed to the fact that Steinbeck grew in the rocky mountain regions in the east side of the valley. The dangers in the story are further amplified by Steinbeck’s active narrative style, breathing more life to the character of Pepe Torres in the context of the struggles.
It can also be observed that in the story, the peasant’s efforts to struggle against the powerful forces of natural environment as well as the peasant’s wealthy landowners is sympathized by Steinbeck. This eventually highlights “Flight” as another typical yet vividly written novel of Steinbeck focusing on the struggles of the peasant, showing similar messages from his other work The Grapes of Wrath.
On the other hand, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates tells us the story of a young girl teenager Connie who is also undergoing some sort of transformation from childhood to adolescence, even praised by critics for the character’s presentation in the story as a character which many people can relate themselves to or even dislike. This work of Oates has been able to receive critical acclaims shortly after it was first published during the early 1970s, indicating in the coming years that such work is one of the best works ever to be written in the genre focusing on the transition period between childhood and adolescence as well as the social and psychological turmoil usually attached to this transition.
All in all, Oates’ story uses that of an evocative language as well as symbols that give way for the reader’s interpretation of the elements in the story, from the subtle ones to the obvious ones. The story’s ambiguous conclusion also paves the way for the reader’s interpretation not only of the story’s conclusion but also of the whole story. It appears, then, that the conclusion of the story is open for meaningful interpretations depending upon what the readers may get hold of as the core message and meaning of the story.
While Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” revolves around the life of Connie, a teenage girl, in the context of social bonds, Steinbeck’s “Flight” focuses on a young man whose life has been spent in an isolated region. This apparent contrast between the two central characters gives us at least one important comparison. That is, two individuals with varying social inclinations and social background tend to be two different individuals at least in terms of dealing with others. For the most part, it should be noted that the two characters, Connie and Pepe, were undergoing the same sort of transformation which is the stage of childhood to adolescence.
In comparison, Pepe symbolizes the individual who, despite of living in isolation from what seems to be the rest of the world, is still able to take the path towards being a ‘socialized’ person although in the end Pepe winds down to the losing end of life, towards difficult struggles to survive while running away from whence he came and then running away, too, from where he wanted to be. On the other hand, Connie symbolizes the individual who is swayed in one way or another by the psychological influences of those who surround her. Her character essentially gives one the impression that the fact that one has been keen to mingling with other people, one can still be influenced by these same people. That is, there is no assurance that openness towards others guarantees the individual of a total control of one’s life.
More importantly, the two stories gives us a rough sketch of how two individuals from different social backgrounds and who are experiencing the same adolescent transformation behave in the context of the societal factors such as peers or the lack thereof. The essential difference between Pepe and Connie rests on the fact that these two characters were raised in life quite differently. Pepe grew up in an isolated region whereas Connie grew up right at the heart of the suburban area. This difference in social upbringing from the perspective of one’s environment can already entail certain differences for the behavior of individuals. Indeed, while Pepe was trying hard to be treated more of as a man instead of as a child; Connie on the other hand spends a portion of her time hanging out with her friends which is typical to that of the teenager.
Apparently, even though the two characters have experienced contrasting social upbringing, both Connie and Pepe experienced the struggles in life of growing up, especially under the pressures felt by ones self. For instance, Pepe hardly believed that he ought to be treated as a man instead of as a young boy which was apparently presented as a trying time for Pepe, symbolized in no small way by his struggles with those who were chasing him up to the rocky regions.
On the other hand, Connie was still appreciating her younger days, unwilling to be one who is mature enough to handle situations, and giving more preference to merrymaking at the height of one’s younger years. Being at the heart of the suburban life instead of having the need to get there like that of Pepe, Connie appears to be oblivious to the desires of those around her who want her to be mature enough to take care of things in her life and of her life. Although Connie was still able to handle certain moments in her life, such as her flirting attitude with a young boy, it was not simply the behavior that those who care enough for her would want her to have.
In conclusion, both “Flight” and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” gives us an understanding of the adolescent transformation experienced at least by two individuals from different social backgrounds and characters. While Connie and Pepe presents sharp contrast between them in some respects, the more general perception remains, which is the perception that, regardless of social upbringing and character, teenagers indeed experience struggles in life and that their struggles cannot simply be taken as simple struggles. On the contrary, these struggles are by themselves difficult to handle and worrisome, if not fearsome, to others.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories. Ontario: Ontario Review Press, 1994.
Steinbeck, John. Flight. The Perfection Form Company, 1966.