Friday, 26 January 2007

At what price society?

I am re-reading Wuthering Heights at the moment and it made me wonder how we all manage to be so repressed so much of the time. Occasionally, of course, you will pass an arguing couple on the street, or someone cursing their way home after an alcoholic evening ends in tears. But in general, people seem composed, well arranged, mechanical even, as they go about their daily business.

Cathy Earnshaw, by contrast, "rung the bell till it broke with a twang; lay dashing her head against the arm of the sofa...grinding her teeth so that you might fancy she would crash them to splinters...She had no breath for speaking". Why? All because Heathcliff has been banished from the house by her weak husband Edgar - and is to take his revenge by eloping with his unfortunate sister, Isabella.

Now this is a romantic novel set in the Yorkshire Moors so we, the readers, indulge those characters. Their reactions somehow belong in that wild context. Our lives, in the suffocating surrounds of suburbanism, by contrast, allow for no such fits of emotion. We must always watch ourselves, our behaviour, for fear that it might depart from the norm. Not for us skipping in the street, breaking down at the end of an affair, dancing for joy. No, we must always conform.

But at what price is this socialisation exacted? Kids laugh hundreds of times a day. Adults? Around 14 times. Even that seems like a lot, if I look around me. We function at the expense of ourselves most of the time, never allowing ourselves to think how life could be if we embraced it more fully. Surely it's healthy to allow ourselves more leaway to feel?

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