How Are We Shaped by Culture, Time and Place

People are shaped by culture, time and place in different ways. As they interact with people from other cultures and different places, they get influenced greatly, thus changing the way they live and view life. Culture is passed from generations to others by use of literature, films, media, or through personal observations. 

Culture influences attributions, perceptions, ideas about self and others, as well as judgments. However, culture is constantly changing in relation to the symbolic dimension of life. Cultural messages provide information on people’s identity in relation to others, on what is meaningful and important. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini depicts culture in the differences between the Muslim sects and Middle East traditions compared to European and Western Christian values. The Taliban ban traditions and customs that do not align with their conservative culture (57).

As people live in an ever changing world and adopting such changes, their origins and the places they live become the differentiating factor. People’s lives are changed as they get attracted to different places. It is through these places that people ask themselves who they really are as they interact with different people. Amir, the main character in The Kite Runner, is influenced to change as they move from Afghanistan to the United States, where there is a contrast of cultures. On moving to America, Amir and Baba are forced to work in the local flea market for a living in addition to going on welfare (74).  

Time shapes people in the way they perceive the past and the future. They believe that the future would be better as compared to the past. This explains the basis of religion that there is a better place people’s souls go to after death. Conversely, the past has played an integral role in shaping people’s lives in terms of literature, art, architecture, and media messages. Miriam Toews (22) shows how Nomi is changed by time as she hungers for life in the process of growing up in a Mennonite society in A Complicated Kindness.

The influence of time, culture and place on people’s lives is evidenced by literary works in existentialism, modernism and post modernism. Existentialism came about in the late 19th to early 20th century and was based on the belief that life is absurd and philosophical thinking starts with the human subject through actions, feelings and living. It supposes that man is wasting his life as a result of inaction and waiting for the salvation of a supreme being, who may be non-existent. In Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett uses Estragon to portray existentialism. Vladimir is seen to rely on Godot for clarification about his existence, while Estragon proclaims that they do not have the time to wait, thus they should act before it is too late. The cooling iron is used metaphorically to show that man should not wait for insight from their spiritual beliefs and that habit is a “great deadener” (85). 

Modernism, on the other hand, originated in Europe and North America in the late 19th century and is characterized by literary form and expression that makes new what existed before. It had the conscious desire to change the expression and representation modes to newer sensibilities as a self-conscious break. Modernism is evident in the television show Mad Men and the poem the Wasteland as they try to express the delicate 20th century state of humanity. This was influenced by the traumas of the world wars, which challenged the cultural ideas of masculine identity in the radically changed society. The theme of barrenness of after war whereby sexuality is perverted leading to an infertile world is shown in the Wasteland and as characters are pulled in and out of modernism in Mad Men. In these literary works, modernism is depicted as not being able to represent the world in a single language, but rather on multiple perspectives as the writer says that time and space had died the previous day and that they are living in the absolute.

Postmodernism was characterized by rejection of the modernism and its attempt to define and represent the human subject. In Stranger than Fiction, postmodernism is shown as the writer tries to provoke thoughts of whether one is living or just passing through life and forgetting their purpose. The writer uses humor and narration to drive the theme in the life of Harold Crick, who lives the same life every day in a set routine.

Postmodernism and modernism follow mostly the same ideas, discarding boundaries between the low and high forms of art and stiff genre peculiarities. They also accentuate parody, pastiche, playfulness and irony. However, postmodernism leans more to self-consciousness, discontinuity, simultaneity and reflexivity. They differ in their attitude towards the trends they follow. Modernism represents an uneven view of history and human subjectivity as seen in the Wasteland but presents that view as a tragic event, in need of lamentation and mourned. Modernism upholds that literary work provides unity and meaning absent in modern life, while postmodernism celebrates such uneven view without lamenting it.

As people travel to different places and meet people of diverse cultures, the place they grew up will always bear the deepest roots to their lives. They can thus be said to be possessed by such place as they learn their first language there, get educated by the culture of that particular place and the messages passed to them through the media. Moreover, as people move their identity is at stake and have to challenge their burden as they shed the old self and take on new ways of life.  

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