The Outsider and Society--"Never Was" or "To Be": An Existential Rendition

Publication Year



Literature, society, literary criticism, existentialism, philosophy, act


Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Philosophy | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


To be or never was? That is the question. Whether it is far "nobler" to 1) enact each day as if it were a carbon copy of yesterday and all the yesterdays before that, or 2) to wake up knowing that everything is contingent, that today must be a creation as unique as a signed work of art--these are the two choices from which man must decide to live. In all actuality, "you are no more than the sum of your acts." What, though, is meant by "act"? The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "act" as "a major division of a play or opera"; "a performance that forms part of a longer presentation, as in vaudeville." Incredible as it may sound, Western society performs life as if it were a play or a burlesque. Life has no significance when it is acted day to day, generation after generation, reading the same old script. Today's world is suffering from an epidemic far more devastating than the plagues of ancient Egypt. The pestilence of the twentieth century is the continuum of a habit-bound life. Vital living is being stifled by routines: in many cases love-making is relegated to the week-ends. As for the other five days of the week, earning a living from eight in the morning to five at night is the unbroken ritual performed by society. No matter which way the situation is viewed the end result is the same.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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