The Themes Of Control Within Susan Douglas's "Narcissism As Liberation," Ralph Ellison's "Extravagance Of Laughter," And Walker Percy's "Loss Of The Creature" Are Explored

1673 words - 7 pages

Although they use different terminology Susan Douglas, Ralph Ellison, and Walker Percy mention and emphasize the importance of control at several points throughout their essays. It can be concluded that all three authors believe that it is important for the individual to maintain control over their own self for to sacrifice control would be to lose the individuality that makes a person. The methods society uses to control the individual varies, according to each author.Douglas discusses the media and the immense power it wields over women and their "narcissistic" selves in her essay. She argues that the media contrives to deceive women into thinking that they are truly the ones in contr ...view middle of the document...

Percy's methods of perceiving the world involve the process of "recovering the creature" from the "symbolic complex." However, society's hold over the individual is so complete that the individual loses his own sense of what he should and should not see in the symbolic complex. As Percy explains in the following passage, the individual gives up his own personal opinions because they do not match the advice of society's "experts." The individual loses control over his or her own thoughts.This loss of sovereignty is not a marginal process, as might appear from my example of estranged sightseers. It is a generalized surrender of the horizon to those experts within whose competence a particular segment of the horizon is thought to lie. ( Percy 518 )The individual places too much value upon the words of "experts" when in fact they themselves may hold the advice themselves. Thus Percy's claim that the individual lacks control over his self leads to the surrender of one's sovereignty, or ownership of one's mind, to experts who are appointed authorities by society.Douglas's "Narcissism as Liberation" views the media as the one in control. She suggests as the following excerpt illustrates, that the media wants women to think they're the ones in control, when in fact, the media is really the one in control.Usually the women pictured were enjoying leisure moments, or what Glamour called "private time." (Douglas 121)In one of my favorites, an ad for something called Terme di Montecatini, we saw the profile of a woman at a spa, covered from forehead to rib cage with a kind of mud we assumed would make her even more beautiful while she just rested. Women like this are passive, inactive, supine. Yet make no mistake about it, these women are in complete control: they are depend on no one, their time is their own, they are beyond the cares of the world, they long for nothing they don't already have. Those symbols of wealth-a huge veranda, the Riviera, art objects, unusual breeds of dogs, the omnipresent glass of white wine,-convey comfort, luxury, insulation from the masses, and control."The passage describes the image that women were supposed to pursue, what they wanted to be like simply because the media mandated. Women were convinced that being a beautiful, calm, laid back, and passive woman was in fact being in control. In truth, women do not really own their bodies. Women's bodies exist as a shrine to media's image of the "ideal beauty." If they do not conform to the media's representation of the ideal female, the woman is not valued. "Women's liberation metamorphosed into female narcissism unchained as political concepts and goals like liberation and equality..."( Douglas 117) She equates the media's exploitation of women's liberation and equality to men as luxury and rewarding oneself for having finally "made it" in this male world. The media was hiding its antifeminist ideas behind its "campaign" which "equated liberation with the freedom" to do whate...


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