The term “loss of innocence” is now being widely used in different spheres, especially in philosophy. This notion is usually associated with human age, meaning that getting older can lead people far from what they were at the very beginning, in their childhood. Indeed, the older a person is, the less naïve and lighthearted they are, the less confident they become about their own views.
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But is this the knowledge alone that makes people lose their innocence? There is an opinion that “A gain in knowledge is a loss of innocence…a greater learning about social reality destroys old verities (truths) and induces uncertainty. Learning about the social world can be a threat”. Obviously, there is a grain of truth in this idea.
Indeed, in the modern world the old verities and values are forgotten, people seem to be really different from what they were in the past. If earlier people were more modest and reserved, now they became really open, and sometimes even rude. The reason for such change is development of communication systems and technologies. An essay “A good man is hard to find” by Flannery O’Connor also illustrates how knowledge about social reality can destroy the old truths.
The main character, a grandmother, who was a real lady, was indignant at how people have changed to worse in comparison with her time. She recalled that in her time “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else” (O’Connor, 64), and that “People are certainly not nice like they used to be” (O’Connor, 68), etc.
However, the grandmother’s knowledge about society is very little in comparison with the Misfit’s one. He appeared to be a very rude man, who had the family of two parents and three little kids killed. In addition, he shot the grandmother himself, even though they had a nice conversation just before.
He did it in a very cold way: he “shot her three times through the chest” (O’Connor, 84). Why would he do this? Why was he so cruel? The answer is simple: the man lost his innocence because of socializing: “I been most everything” (O’Connor, 79). The man had many occupations, met many people, and some of the experiences were not really pleasant: “I even seen a woman flogged” (O’Connor, 79). Obviously, this experiences made the man tough, and they left no place for sensitivity in his hard.
Another example of how threatening the knowledge about social world can be is the essay ”A small good thing” by Raymond Carver. He author shows how a pair of “happy and, so far, lucky” parents, Howard and Ann, turn into angered beasts ready to kill someone (Carver, 3).
The reason for that is the gain of knowledge about social reality. The doctor, who failed to save their beloved song, Scotty, a negro boy, who was accidentally killed, the baker, who caused pain by reminding about their son – all these people took away the innocence of the pair. The character of baker, too, serves as an example of innocence loss.
The man realized “the sense of doubt and limitation that had come to him in his middle years” (Carver, 37). These feelings were caused by his experience of communication with different social groups, which once more proves, how harmful social world can be for an individual.
The character of another short story also became a victim of knowledge. Josephine from Kate Chopin’s “The story of an hour” was so shocked by the news about her husband’s death, that she demanded: “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin, 47). However, the long-awaited freedom only reached her with death.
The heroine died at the moment she saw her husband, who was actually alive and safe. Did she die because of happiness? Doubtfully so. Josephine could not bare the fact that she was mislead by other people; by the time her husband appeared, her soul was already dead. This is one of the horrifying results of learning about society. We can assume that if she did not talk to her husband’s friend, Richard, who told about the news, she would live long and happily. But it was knowledge that killed her.
As it can be seen, gain of knowledge about social world can often be dangerous. Without a doubt, knowledge of this kind leads to the loss of innocence.
Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. London: Vintage, 1989.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. London: Vogue, 1894.
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O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. NY: Mariner Books, 1977.