After reading "The Birthmark", a short story, and watching "The Eye of the Beholder" from the Twilight Zone, my perspective on humanity and society has definitely changed. Both Georgiana from "The Birthmark" and Janet Tyler from "The Eye of the Beholder" are cast out by their peers because of a deformity that makes them look different from others. Honestly, this one fact tells a lot about humans.
Each society has already deemed what is normal and what is not. As seen in "The Eye of the Beholder", Janet Tyler lives in a world where the ideal image is a grotesque and misshapen face. However, that is simply my perspective- in their point of view, that disfigured face is seen as normal. Growing up around these beings, their ideals have been constantly hammered into Janet's mind, and altered her perspective on what makes someone normal or a monster. Janet's peers have considered her an ugly creature since birth, and the continual criticism and negativity led her to believe them.
Take a look at this picture of Janet and the doctor:
On the other hand, in "The Birthmark", Georgiana is described to be the wife of a deranged scientist named Aylmer, who seems intent on removing a hand-shaped birthmark on her cheek. Because of this mark, she is deemed a monster by her husband, and he continually sees it as a symbol of death and sin, when really, it represents Georgiana's humanity and her connection to the mortal world. When Aylmer finally removes the birthmark, he severs this connection, and she ultimately dies.
What Does This Teach Us?
Okay, so these two women were shunned by society because they didn't look like everyone else. Big deal. So what does all this mean?
It shows a great deal about what it means to be human. We constantly strive toward perfection, but it's clearly unattainable. More than that, however, we seek the conformity of society, a society where everyone looks similar. Anyone different is deemed a monster. What's more, both the doctor in "Eye of the Beholder" and Aylmer in "The Birthmark" try to play God and fix the women's deformities. Both attempts fail, of course, but the mere fact that they tried to get rid of their flaws proves man's deep desire to conform to the social norm.
So here's my challenge for you:
No, really. Try it. Think of a facial feature, a characteristic, anything at all that would summarize this word.
Do you think you have an answer? Now, call up a relative who lives far away. Ask them the same question. I'll bet they have a completely different answer.
So why do we all have varying definitions? In reality, who actually decides what is normal? Who says this is normal in other societies? As humans, we are unusually self-centered, thinking only about what is common in our society, and therefore, do what makes us comfortable. Take the doctors and nurses in "Eye of the Beholder"- they were willing to completely change the face of a woman than to have others be disturbed by her looks. Not only that, but they were ready to send her off to an isolated village with a complete stranger, far away from their city, where they dispose of all the monsters.
That's more than a little selfish.
It also teaches us that humans are easily swayed by the opinions of others. Because of the rejection from their peers, both Georgiana and Janet became convinced that they truly were monsters, and put all faith in the procedure. They would do whatever it took for conformity. Doesn't that sound like something humans would do?
It also explains why we are so afraid of the unknown, of things unlike us. We are blinded by our struggle for uniformity in an effort for greater control over others. If someone is just like us, wouldn't it be easier to convince them something than if you had no background knowledge at all? We feel completely helpless when we are faced with someone or something that is different from us.
How Do We Respond?
When it does so happen that we meet someone who does not fit into our definition of normal, we are unable to cope with it, and we deem them as monsters. It is difficult for humans to deal with differences because it means we are incapable of controlling them, and this scares us. For some reason, it is essential to differentiate ourselves from what isn't normal, perhaps because it makes us feel secure, and encourages a sense of belonging.
This refusal to accept those outside of the expected norms makes us monsters instead.
A monster is not defined by someone's ability to blend in with social expectations. It's someone who is not willing to acknowledge the fact that mistakes and differences are what make us human. There is no such thing as a perfect human being. Try as we may, it's not possible. Aylmer and the doctors attempted to mess with this balance of nature, and thus, became monsters themselves.