A Single Man

A Comparison of Jez Butterworth and Christopher Isherwood's Resistance to Social Norms in 'Jerusalem' and 'A Single Man' 12th Grade

Social norms are the expected rules that determine what is acceptable or appropriate behaviour in particular social contexts, the resistance of which puts an individual at risk of prejudice. Jez Butterworth and Christopher Isherwood explore the toxic effects norms have on individuals, and crucially, how they are resisted to varying degrees. Jerusalem depicts a ‘green world’ free of societal expectations, ruled by a contemporary Lord of Misrule. This allows Butterworth to explore the loss of Old England, and along with it the individuality that is missing in modern times. Isherwood’s A Single Man follows a gay protagonist, living in pre-Stonewall California – an age of ‘nuclear families’ – who’s minority status means he is marginalised by a heteronormative society. While the texts differ in their approaches, both instil a message of non-conformity against the status quo, in their presentation of social norms and how they are subverted through the presentation of identity, setting and the theme of transcendence.

Both writers use settings as a mechanism to explore social norms, however while Butterworth restricts his play to one location, Isherwood explores multiple settings. The only stage set the audience physically experiences...

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