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Initiation refers to a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood or making an entrance into the society. There exist differences in rites of passage from a particular community to another. These rites of passage may vary from a person to another. New responsibilities and a new form of self-realization characterize initiation. Furthermore, the act involves a variety of forms like tribal initiations that involve teachings on adulthood. It may also take the form of spiritual or gang initiation characterized by introduction to criminal gangs.
Initiation occurs in all cultures and there have been a lot of literature written about it. Many teenagers, especially girls make life-threatening decisions during initiation. Initiation has numerous psychological effects as revealed in the narrations of many individuals. Individuals who are initiated by wrong people face many consequences, which affect their lives in many ways. This paper will present a comparison of initiation themes.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”
In the story “where are you going, where have you been”, the main character is Connie who is a 15-year-old self-absorbed girl. She is not in good terms with her mother and she lives with her elder sister who is steady and hard working. The genesis of her initiation occurs in a particular day when, without the knowledge or approval of her parents, she spent a day at “Big Boy” restaurant and captures the attention of a man.
It does not take long before the boy and his friend visit the girl’s homestead in the absence of her parents. The man seems friendly although Connie notices that he has lied about his age. What transpires leaves less to imagination because the man asks Connie to comply with his demands (Oates 8).
The story depicts a sad initiation process for Connie as she is introduced into a sense of self-realization through harassment. Because of her naivety, she is adamant to leave the relationship. Many women have written their biographies with such kind of an initiation including an aspect of forced marriage. The bandits take Connie to a building described by her as being in a dilapidated condition. Moreover, she is threatened to copulate with Friend, who wants her to be his lover and possibly his wife.
In the short story of Katherine Porter, ‘The Grave,’ there is a young woman called Miranda who is on a hunting mission with her brother. They take time to view the cemeteries that the family had sold. Miranda is a woman who reveals how she is uncomfortable with several aspects of her life.
The outset of her initiation is when she witnesses her brother killing a rabbit. The two realize that the rabbit was about to give birth. Miranda has a sense of pity and she even starts trembling without any reason. From her reactions, it is apparent that she has realized that she is more mature. Hence, according to the standards of her society, she has to start behaving like a mature woman and accept all the responsibilities that come with the position (Barber 15).
In ‘The Grave,’ the young woman feels that she has been initiated from childhood into adulthood. Although she cannot explain the occurrence of the initiation, she acknowledges that it is time for her to become mature and take up the role of a woman. This is unlike in the case of Connie depicted in ‘where are you going, where have you been?’
In the latter story, Connie is abducted without her knowledge and is initiated by bandits. This form of initiation differs with that of Miranda. Connie’s story involves the use of force into initiation. She never showed any instincts regarding what was to happen or nothing could indicate to her that it was time to step out of childhood.
Connie’s predicament is exacerbated by the threats she receives when she reveals her intentions to call the police. Her story ends with an indication that her initiation is through forced love and eventually into marriage with a man that she barely knew. Furthermore, she is forced to marry a person whom she fears and does not trust. Miranda does not go through forced love in her initiation (Oates 8).
‘At the Landing’
A look into the forms of initiations experienced by the aforementioned women reveals that initiation is worse for a young woman called Jenny. Her predicament is depicted in Eudora Welty’s Story ‘At the Landing.’ She is initiated through rape. A stranger steals Jenny’s innocence and this is the worst form of initiation that can happen to a woman. Further, a group of men rapes her as she attempts to look for Billy, the man who had previously raped her.
Jenny undergoes more suffering in her initiation than the other characters. She is forced to sleep with a man. Her situation is made worse by the societal prejudices directed at women who undergo such shameful experiences. She is blamed for failing to take any action after being raped by a gang of anglers. Her story draws close similarities with that of Lynn (Barber 15), and Connie (Oates 8-10), as both are persuaded into having a sexual relationship during their initiation.
The story of Lynn Barber in “An Education is a bit different from the others. The story revolves around a 16-year-old schoolgirl. This girl has a chance to meet a man claiming to be 27 years old. Lynn is vulnerable as she is attracted by Simon’s possessions and she succumbs into a premature relationship.
The relationship continues and Simon starts the habit of kissing her for long and even demands to have sex with her. This goes on until they are on a trip and they have sex. Things take a different turn when they are having dinner in a cortege one evening as Simon is sought after by authorities (Barber 20).
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After her education, Simon proposes to her and she informs her parents who encourage her to accept the marriage proposal. Deep inside her mind, she knew that this was going to shatter her dreams, as she was a bright girl and had ambitions of going to Oxford University to further her studies. With the consent of her parents, she decides not to go to the University and instead opts to marry Simon. Later on, she realizes that Simon is a dishonest man who had been deceiving her all along.
The story of Lynn Barber shows a naïve girl led into marriage by a much older man. She is a bright girl and has ambitions of furthering her studies but out of her naivety, she opts for marriage with a man who is dishonest and not fit to be her husband.
She undergoes a tough initiation, as her parents do not take their time to learn if Simon was good enough for her. Furthermore, the parents even opted for her marriage and did not reprimand her for not going to college. She is frustrated after learning that Simon had been deceiving her. Her initiation has similar aspects to that of Connie (Oates 8-10).
Both of them are deceived by men who are much older than they are. They are led into marriage despite their age and naivety. Although the story of Connie includes an aspect of force where she is forced to go out with Friend, she had a chance of rejecting his advances from the first time they met in a restaurant. Lynn’s case is out of her free will that she allows Simon to build a relationship with her.
Initiation undergone by Lynn (Barber) and Connie (Oates) shows young girls who are deceived by gifts and money. In both the cases, the two girls are attracted to men with expensive cars. Connie described Arnold Friend’s Car as an expensive car with a bright gold color that caught the sunlight opaquely.
The two girls allowed the men in their lives from the fact that they looked wealthy and they could treat them with expensive gifts. Lynn used to receive flowers and during the weekends. Simon would pick her and go with him to watch movies. We learn from her that her father also accepted and acknowledged Simon to be her friend. The father had asked where Simon and Lynn had met (Barber 2).
Her parents wanted the man to be her lover so that they could gain from his wealth. However, there is no relationship during the initiation of Miranda (Porter 15). She experiences an urge when they are on a hunting mission with her brother Paul. She notes that her father had been urging them to dress like boys although the neighbors were not comfortable with it.
She notes that she is supposed to dress like a woman and was ready to accept her womanhood with all the responsibilities. She feels the urge to go back into the house and dress in a feminine manner. She is luckier than the aforementioned characters because no one deceives her into marriage. Lynn and Connie gain the sense of knowledge from naivety and childhood through a rather regrettable manner.
In ‘Charlotte temple’, (Rowson), initiation of a sixteen-year-old girl is not very different as she elopes to America with a British worker. The young girl is left alone when she gets pregnant and the man desserts her to stay with much wealthier woman. She succumbs to a serious ailment and dies in the process of giving birth.
This story is not very different to that of Lynn (Barber), as the two girls are rather young and end up in marriage with men that they do not know well. Moreover, they marry at a rather young age before they have trusted their partners. They are both deceived after marriage as Lynn realizes that Simon is a dishonest man who is wanted by the police. He later starts selling off his property. In the case of Charlotte, the man does not keep the promise of staying with her and as soon as she gets pregnant. He deserts for a much older woman.
Both girls are deceived by looks and wealth. The situation changes when they drop out of school, which leaves them frustrated. Both stories are similar to that of Connie (Oates). They all are deceived and have sexual affairs at a tender age. Although Connie’s fate is not well known, there are indications that she eventually enters into a forced marriage. The story of Connie is however different from that of the two girls because she is married without her consent.
Most of the stories of young girls into initiation involve seduction, which eventually leads to fatal consequences. Many girls fall into this trap as they are targets of men because they are schoolgirls and are considered more attractive to hang out with and have a sexual relationship with.
The men in most cases do not intend to marry them. Further, it happens that they are even dumped off after they get pregnant. This case is well illustrated in the story of the Charlotte (Rowson), where she elopes to America with a man who dumps her when she gets pregnant. Connie (Oates) and Lynn (Barber) also fall into the trap of men who lead them into premature relationships.
All the girls end up suffering and their dreams of furthering their education are shattered. The stories lower their self-worth. A proper initiation should be like that of Miranda (Porter), where her initiation is out of self-induction. She realizes and feels the urge to dress properly like a woman and quit hunting as this was a male affair.
In summary, initiation refers to a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood or making an entrance into the society. There are numerous differences between rites of passages in different societies. Initiation is characterized by the emergence of new responsibilities and self –realization. Initiation may also involve a variety of forms like tribal initiations that involves teachings on adulthood. In this paper, various forms of initiation are highlighted.
Most of the individuals that underwent initiation in the aforementioned cases have had bad experiences in the process of initiation. Initiation has numerous psychological effects as revealed in the narrations of many individuals. Individuals who are initiated by wrong people report to have vast consequences, which affect their lives in many ways.
In ‘where are you going, where have you been’ and other stories depicted above, several girls have been initiated into womanhood through negative processes. Some have been raped or forced into early marriages. This paper reveals how girls are tricked into making premature decisions that drastically affects their lives. Hence, there is the need to address the initiation of girls into adulthood through violation of their sexuality such as rape or even forced marriages tender ages.
Moreover, there exists the need to help adolescents refrain from getting into relationships. Involvement into the aforementioned behavior may lead to consequences such as pregnancies or abusive marriages. The cases of Lynn and Charlotte have elucidated the predicament that some young girls face in the process of initiation. From the cases, it is apparent that girls may face negative consequences during initiation than boys. These include social, psychological, and emotional consequences.
Barber, Lynn. An Education. New York: Penguin, 2009.
Oates, C. “Introduction”. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994.
Porter, Katherine Anne. Conversations. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.
Rowson, Susanna. Charlotte Temple. Boston: Mobile Reference, 2010.