Conformity can often seem like the best path to take in a situation. Going along with everyone else will cause less conflict for the group as a whole. Unfortunately conforming simply to protect other people’s feelings can lead to powerful internal conflicts if a person does not fully agree with the situation. Ruth from A Raisin in the Sun, Langston from “Salvation,” and Mama from “Everyday Use,” all felt internal conflicts resulting from conformity. Ruth Younger is a caring mother who feels internal conflicts when she feels strongly about something her husband does not agree with.
Ruth lives in a small apartment with her extended family. She tries to be a good wife, supportive of her husband’s decisions but she also longs for a better life for her family. Gladys Washington, literary reviewer, points out that Ruth, “seems to hold fairly traditional ideas about motherhood, but she finds herself, without the counsel of her husband, considering abortion as an alternative to bringing another child into the world” (Washington screen 3). She would sacrifice the life growing inside her to ensure her current family had a place to sleep.
When her mother-in-law presents them with the opportunity to move from their small run down apartment to a home of their own Ruth is overjoyed, but sees that Walter is furious with his mother for spending so much money on a home in a white neighborhood. Ruth wants so badly to be excited that she urges her husband to see the good that would come from moving. She says, “Please, honey — let me be glad… you be glad too”(Hansberry 998). She tells him they should, “say goodbye to these Goddamned cracking walls! –and these marching roaches! –and this cramped little closet which ain’t now or never was no kitchen! Hansberry 999).
After being offered money by their white neighbors not to move in, Walter decides to take the money and keep his family in their cramped apartment. Ruth is being torn to pieces at the thought of losing the home she dreamed of but she has done enough pleading. She had already rebelled and let her husband know how she felt about the new home. Finally right before Walter signs the papers to accept the white community’s money, his wife and mother’s pleas get through to him. He turns down the white man’s money and Ruth finally gets a better life for her family.
Langston Hughes faced internal struggles when he was pressured to do something he did not believe in. His Aunt’s church was holding a revival and that night had a special meeting for children. Langston’s Aunt had told him that Jesus would come into his life. She said, “that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! “(Hughes 467). When the meeting began the preacher asked for the children to, “come to Jesus,”(Hughes 467) but Langston was not one of the many who got up. He waited to feel something letting him know that Jesus had come into his life.
Slowly all of the other children joined the preacher and the congregation focused their energies on Langston. The twelve year old boy was under incredible pressure to proclaim himself saved and he began to think, “that maybe to save further trouble,”(Hughes 468) he should just, “say that Jesus had come, and get up, and be saved,”(Hughes 468) Langston decided to get up and join the saved children, to the delight of the whole church. After deceiving his Aunt’s church, ” for the last time in [his] life but one,”(Hughes 468) he cried. His tear’s were a physical expression of the pain caused by conforming to other’s expectations.
Mama’s unconditional love of her daughters’ causes inner conflict when she must choose between them. Her daughters are as different as they can be but Mama accepts both children for who they are. When Dee, her oldest daughter, arrives at Mama’s farmhouse she has changed her name, appearance, and general attitude about her family’s home. Diane Ross noted, “To [Mama], the name “Dee” is symbolic of family unity; after all, she can trace it back to the time of the Civil War” (Ross Screen 2). By rejecting the name Dee, she is rejecting her family’s history.
Mama takes this all in stride and supports Dee’s decision to go by the African name Wangero saying, “If that’s what you want us to call you, we’ll call you”(Walker 110). Mama continues to humor Wangero until Wangero asks for two quilts that have already been promised to Maggie. Maggie, a shy, quiet girl who never expects things to go her way, is Mama’s younger daughter. Wangero wants the quilts to display in her home because they are hand stitched and worth money. Maggie, however, desires the quilts because she learned to quilt from the women who made them and are full of memories of people she loved.
When Mama saw Maggie sacrificing her quilts to appease Wangero she could no longer conform to Wangero’s wishes. Mama, “did something [she] had never done before,” (Walker 112) and gave Maggie back the quilts that were rightfully hers. John Gruesser states that Mama finally realized,” that her thin, scarred, pathetic daughter, who knows how to quilt and serves as her family’s oral historian, deserves the quilts more than her shapely, favored, educated daughter Dee, who only wants the quilts because they are now fashionable” (Gruesser Screen 2).
Maggie gave Mama, ” a real smile, not scared,”and confirmed that Mama’s conflict had been resolved in the best way possible. Each character’s conflict was brought on by different circumstances but rebelling to do what they believed in cleared up any internal problems. In each story the benefits of conformity are outweighed by the damage it can do to a person when conforming means not following their heart. In these stories, as in everyday life, rebellion can be beneficial when it means doing what you feel is right.
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