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Individualism versus Authority

In both Arnold J. ToynbeeÆs (2004) Challenge and Response and Tim OÆBrienÆs (1999) The Things They Carried, we see that there is a conflict between individualism and authority that is a natural part of human existence. Whether this conflict erupts in the natural course of communal life or within military combat, such a conflict pits the individual against a higher authority. In ToynbeeÆs (2004) Challenge and Response, we see that Adam and Eve, faced with the challenged of being obedient to God, transgressed authority and thus brought about the Fall of Man. In OÆBrienÆs (1999) The Things They Carried, we see that OÆBrien wants to resist the authority of the government draft but cannot. In both of these works we see that individuals, when challenged with authority, typically cannot sustain individualism without paying a harsh price.

In OÆBrienÆs (1999) The Things They Carried, the young OÆBrien is distraught over his draft summons that means he will have to put his individual life at risk due to government authority. He knows the government has ended most graduate school deferments. He hopes to go to Canada to escape the draft. However, despite his willingness to challenge authority, as an individual he knows he will pay a harsh price for transgressing the authority of the U.S. government. As he writes, ôAll around me the options seemed to be narrowing, as if I were hurtling down a huge black funnel, the whole world squeezing in tight. There was no happy way outö (43).

In ToynbeeÆs (2004) Challenge and Response, we see that like Tim OÆBrien, Adam and Eve have the free will to disobey the authority of God but will also discover no happy way out. Toynbee (2004) discusses how Adam and Eve had to face the challenge of the Serpent as a means of illustrating their obedience to GodÆs authority. However, being of free will, both Eve and Adam will transgress GodÆs aut


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Individualism versus Authority. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:50, May 28, 2020, from