Have you ever been so in deep in denial that even when everyone around you tried helping you out of that hole you dug yourself into you still can’t seem to face the truth? Have you ever yourself tried to convince someone out of their own false belief? We are all victims to our own minds sometimes. We allow our brains to reminisce on what we want to believe instead of acknowledging the facts of the situation. In this essay, we will thoroughly analyze denial and truth across many different genres including short stories, Greek tragedy, and lyrics. As we begin to dive into the psychoanalysis of it all we can begin to see how denial of the truth can impact people.
Beginning with the short story “The One’s Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K le Guin, we are told a story of what appears to be a perfect city with no flaws or imperfection throughout it. The people there are overflowing with joy, and are “mature, intelligent; passionate adults whose lives were not wretched.” (Le Guin 259). However, as you read you learn that the flourishment of Omelas and its people is only possible through the misery of a child being held within a broom closet. A product of pain and suffering the child is held in a dark place below an otherwise glorious building in Omelas where, “Its buttocks and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually.” (Le Guin 261). Now you may wonder how anyone can allow for this to happen to anybody, and the answer to that is simple. They pick denial over the truth. They visit the poor child only to remind themselves that its okay to put them through it because it makes the whole city better. And who cares about the torture of one person if it means a perfect life for so many others? They keep themselves in a constant state of denial of what they are doing in order to have such a good life. They make themselves believe that “even if the child could be released, it would not get much good of its freedom.” (Le Guin 261). Giving off the illusion that having a perfect city at the cost of one individual is worth it. Then there are the ones who choose to walk away. The cowards who can’t live in denial and cannot face the truth. The ones who “keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas” (Le Guin 262) and instead of living in luxury at the cost of an individual, leave behind Omelas all together and move on from the child in the broom closet.
Moving on to the short story, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner where denial takes on a few different faces. As you read, you are introduced to a small-town setting where a woman named Emily is the focus. The first time that we see denial in this short story is right after her father dies. For three days she puts on a charade where she refuses to accept his death instead “she told them her father was not dead.” And had ministers and doctors calling her to “Persuade her to let them dispose of the body.” (Faulkner online). In this story, Emily is the embodiment of denial. When she is faced with new leaders in the community claiming she needs to start paying taxes again, instead of listening she simply tells them she “had no taxes in Jefferson” (Faulkner online) and sends them on their way. She is clinging to the past and refusing to accept the changes throughout the community. Finally, the main way that we see denial in this story is in Emily’s dedication to being with Homer. She ignores the gossip of her neighbors claiming she and Homer wouldn’t marry because Homer was “not a marrying man” (Faulkner online). She refuses to acknowledge the growing separation between her and Homer to the point that after she presumably poisons him with the arsenic, she locks him away in a room and continues to sleep with his body until the day that she dies. Thus, presenting us with the ultimate form of denial.
Moving on to our Greek tragedy, “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles, where instead of following the character Oedipus, we analyze his father Laius and how his denial of the truth resulted in his own demise. It all starts with the birth of his son Oedipus, where he is then told that Oedipus will kill him and take his place in bed with Laius’ wife. After listening to this prophecy, he sends off his child with a clubbed foot to be left for dead. This is his form of denial. Instead of facing this oracle head on and allowing his child to grow up with him, he sends his problems away to keep himself from having to deal with it. He believes that he has done what needed to be done to save himself and his position as King as well as husband, but lives in a constant state of denial by not acknowledging that it was at the expense of his own son. Also, by not considering that the oracle would not come true if he had raised Oedipus himself and that he was forced to send him away and forget about him. It is reasonable to consider that had Oedipus been raised by his own father and mother that he would not have gone on to kill his father and rape his mother. In fact, one could believe that the oracle predicted such things would happen knowing that Laius would send Oedipus off and because of his actions end up exactly the way the oracle stated.
Lastly, I wanted to include the song “Edge of Reality” sung by Elvis Presley into this analysis. In the song, he sings about constantly being on the edge of reality, where “Life’s dream lies disillusioned”. Now this song seems to be about how a girl drives him to madness and leaves him at the edge of reality where he can either fall of the edge and chase his feelings for her or accept the reality of it all and move on. However, I think it would be fair to ask if in all the genres talked about in this essay the characters dealing with denial were not sitting on their own “edge of reality”? Emily in accepting her father’s death. The people of Omelas in living with the child in the broom closet. Finally, Laius in sending his child away to be murdered. We all are sometimes put on the edge of reality, but until we can decide to face our own truth and rid ourselves of denial we will continue to fall helplessly off the edge.
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