Social Acceptance and Its Consequences

There is a moment in every person’s life that defines what
they will be and how they will do in the future. Although
most people are unable to pinpoint the exact day and time
of this moment, it is usually in early adolescence and
involves that person’s peers and developing morals. It is
usually caused by the metamorphosis from a completely
dependent person to a social being where there is an
increased pressure to fit in. The fictitious narrator in Alice
Adams’ "Truth or Consequences" – itself an excerpt from
her book To See You Again – was unique in that she could
pinpoint this defining moment. Her experience with
Carstairs Jones was a mixed blessing that she was not able
to overcome and, in light of how her life turned out, was a
foreshadowing of things to come.

Throughout the monologue, the narrator drops hints about
how her "normal" past turned out. The many lovers she’d
had – three marriages and as many abortions. Each time
she was seeking out to gain an upper hand in life and social
status. Once, she writes, "I was raped by someone to
whom I was married." These are not part of what most
people would constitute as a "normal" life. The sublimation
of her own values and morals to become part of the ‘in’
crowd at her elementary school started with the malicious
game of Truth or Consequences where she was the victim
of a trick question designed to humilate her. Car Jones
happened to be the rock adjacent to the hard place she
was wedged between. Her ill fate led to the use of Car to
prop her into social acceptance and the toll that Car
imposed on her for her use of him caused confusion that
stayed with her throughout her life.

In her own mind, the narrator decides that all of these
events can be traced back to the incident with Car and, as
indicated by the final line in the story, cause her to be
traumatized and allow these things to happen. "… he could
be as haunted as I am by everything that ever happened in
his life." The traumatization threw the narrator into the arms
of the most popular kid in class and that in turn led to her
descent up the ladder of popularity. She reasons that to
Car, the event was of little consequence and was quickly
forgotten. Just the last ‘bad’ thing he could do before his
sudden advancement to high school. He just floated above
all of the inconsequential things that he did and followed
what he wished with nary a look back. His poisoning of her
formative year prevented her from doing the same. She
also allows that he could be just the opposite, but not much
faith is put into that, for if it were true, surely something
would have come of it.

The ability to cope is part of human nature and the narrator
felt as though that part of her had been ripped asunder and
left dead. She could no longer cope the same way that
everyone else could. Something inside had died, allowing
all of the unfortunate events of her life to happen. So she
thinks, anyway. While it is probable that this kiss meant
nothing to Carstairs Jones, it did have an impact on how
Ms. Emily Ames turned out.

Category: Psychology