A Complicated Kindness

Falling out of Line: Conformity in A Complicated Kindness 10th Grade

Rollo May once argued that the opposite of courage is not cowardice, but conformity. In a society which constantly pushes one to fit an ideal, remaining true to oneself is the greatest sign of bravery. Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness illustrates a population of two conflicting behavioral extremes. According to the narrator, Nomi Nickel, in the Mennonite community of East Village, Manitoba, “[there is] no room for in between. [You are] in or [you are] out. [You are] good or [you are] bad … You fall into line or you fall” (Toews 10). With this idea, Toews asks a compelling question: is it better to compromise one’s self in order to be a part of one’s society or to assert one’s self and become the outcast?

Conformity becomes especially difficult when the expectations of one’s society are overblown or unrealistic. Mennonite values are rooted in modesty and abstinence, which many members of the community find difficult to follow. Some bans include: “the media, dancing, smoking, temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock n’ roll, having sex for fun, swimming, makeup, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o’ clock” (5). The banning of these common practices demonstrates how East Village is trapped in a...

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