Applying Forest and the Trees Essay

In Allan Johnson’s book, The Forest and the Trees, Johnson explains the importance of culture and structure in society and how it influences the way we live. Johnson’s ideas are clearly shown in the film Far from Heaven. The Forest and The Trees also helps a question I had at the beginning of this semester, “What makes me act the way I do and what has influenced my behavior? ” In Allan Johnson’s The Forest and the Trees, Johnson (2008:38-62) defines culture as the way we construct reality within a social system, using ideas and symbols to assign meaning, and it’s the way we habitually behave to the meaning we have constructed.Those ideas can be put into four categories. Those four categories are beliefs, values, norms, and attitudes. Beliefs are defined as ideas that society has defined as true (Johnson 2008:45). Values are a type of a belief that people believe to right or wrong, they are rankings that help people make decisions (Johnson 2008:48). Norms are values that have consequences or rewards from society (Johnson 2008:53).

Lastly, attitudes are knee-jerk reactions based on someone’s beliefs, values and norms. An example of Johnson’s ideas can be shown at the University of Michigan.At Michigan, it is a belief that Michigan and Ohio State are rivals, it is a value that Michigan is better than Ohio State, and a norm is that if someone were to support Ohio State while in Ann Arbor, that person would receive dirty looks. Those dirty looks that are given are examples of attitudes, because the emotional reactions towards Ohio State are not beliefs, values, or norms. In addition to beliefs, values, norms, and attitudes, Johnson believes that material culture also defines culture (2008:66). Material culture is everything that someone owns.

We Will Write a Custom Essay about Applying Forest and the Trees Essay
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

One can find sociological trends with material culture. For example, in the United States, it is important to keep up with technology. First off, most people in the United States have a smartphone. If someone was to ask those smartphone owners if they have the first generation of the device, the person would not get many people saying yes.

The overall combination of beliefs, values, norms, attitudes, and material culture is what makes up culture in Johnson’s view. Another thing that influences our place in society is structure.In The Forest and the Trees, Allan Johnson defines social structures as the organization of relationships at all levels of society (2008:76). These relationships can be split into two subcategories, status and role.

Status is the position someone holds in a given social system (Johnson 2008: 90). These statuses can be either permanent or temporary. A permanent status can be ‘sibling’, while a temporary position can be ‘driver’ if someone is driving a car at the time. This position can either empower or constrain the person who has that role.

An example of this can be seen in the family dynamic. The ‘baby’ of one family might be neglected because more attention is given to the older siblings, while in another family, the baby can receive more attention, and have it easier than its older siblings. How one behaves may be a product of their status and not necessarily the personality of that person.

Johnson defines role as the collection of beliefs, values, norms, and attitudes that apply to a position holder (2008:107). This creates paths of least resistance and shape how that person behaves.If a student is assigned a project, the role of that student influences him or her to do the project, in most cases, because that is the path of least resistance (Johnson 2008: 109). However, having multiple statuses can create role conflict (Johnson 2008: 109). That same student also has the role of being a friend, and his or her friends want to hang out. The role of the student wants them to do the project, but the role of being a friend wants to go out and hang out with his or her friends. Johnson’s puts it simply as status is one’s job title in a social system, while the role is the job description.

In the film, Far from Heaven, Allan John’s definitions of culture are shown. Since the film takes place in the 1950’s, the culture is much different than what it is today. A belief in the film is that interracial relationships are wrong. A value is that a white woman should never be seen with a black man. A norm is that if an interracial couple is seen, they will be chastised and looked down upon. An attitude in the film is shown when Kathy is spotted with Raymond. The entire town is talking about them and people lose respect for Kathy, Frank, and their family.

Another example of this in the film has to do with Frank’s homosexuality.A belief is that homosexuality is wrong; a value is that it is better to be heterosexual that homosexual, and a norm is that if someone is homosexual, then there is something wrong with them and something has to be done. When Kathy finds out that Frank is gay, she is in shock and takes him to a doctor to “cure” his homosexuality.

The different culture in the film is clearly shown and the beliefs, values, norms and attitudes of the time show the sociological environment of the time. In addition to the culture shown in Far from Heaven, structure is also shown. Kathy deals with a great amount of role conflict in the film.Kathy’s statuses in the film include white, upper class, female, female, wife, and mother. With those positions, she is supposed to be a supportive wife to Frank, even though he hits her, doesn’t make love with her, and is homosexual. Meanwhile, the thing that would make her most happy, being with Raymond, is basically forbidden with her given statuses. When people see her simply talking to Raymond at the art show, the take into question her.

When she is seen going to dinner with Raymond, her peers, her friends, and her husband criticize her. Kathy is ultimately faced with the decision where her roles clash with each other.As the white, upper class, female, wife, mother she should not be anywhere near Raymond, unless he is working for her, but as Raymond’s lover she wants to be with him, because that makes her most happy. During the film, Kathy choses to keep her image as a white, upper class, female, wife, mother and tells Raymond that they cannot be together. However, at the end of the film, she realizes she made the wrong choice, but Raymond decides that he cannot be with her for the sake of his daughter. Frank’s statuses and roles are also shown in the film, and he also has to deal with a great amount of role conflict.Frank has the statuses of a white, upper class, man, husband, father, but also a homosexual. When his wife first spots him with another man, he went to get his “problem” “cured.

” He goes a to a doctor to fix his problem because as the rich, upper class, white man he cannot be seen as homosexual because that will ruin his reputation and make him less powerful. However, Frank is never able to get his problem solved, and his status as a homosexual continues to linger. His major role conflict is whether or not to keep hiding the fact that he is homosexual or to continue to see other men.With the rich, powerful, white man status, Frank should hide his homosexuality to maintain his image with his peers, while with the homosexual status; he should do what makes him most happy which is being with other men. In the end, Frank finds a man that he falls in love with another a man, and he choses to leave his family to be with that man.

Both Kathy and Frank’s statuses and roles, and their role conflict, clearly show the difficulties that people like them had to face in the 1950’s.On the first day of class, the question I had was “What makes me act the way I do and what has influenced my behavior? Allan Johnson would answer my questions by explaining the culture and structures to which I belong. One status that I have that I think had a big influence on how I act was being the baby of my family. As the baby, my parents paid closer attention to my schoolwork and social life. My mother would pay close attention to my grades and made sure I did my assignments on time. This is because of the belief in my family that doing schoolwork was import, the value that schoolwork came before anything else, and the norm that schoolwork had to be done before I could do anything else.If I did not do my work, I would be punished.

This is why I feel like I need a more structured type of course load. On this assignment, I started it later than I had planned, simply because I was given more freedom with this paper. Also, I felt like my parents were harder on me than they were with my older siblings. They would be able to come home later, go out more often than me, and in my view, have more fun. Because of this, when I do go out, I might do crazier things than my siblings did when they went out. Often times, my roles as being the baby, and being a friend would conflict.Since my parents were harder on me, I was forced to come home earlier than I would want to, so my times with my friends would be sacrificed. On some nights, my parents would fall asleep and I would face the choice of being a son and a friend, have to chose how long to stay out.

This influences me today because when I go out, I usually choose to go out later than most people because I didn’t like being told to go home. Being the baby in the family, is only one role I have and it has greatly influenced the way I live today.The Forest and the Trees by Allan Johnson shows the ways culture and structure shape the way we live. Beliefs, values, norms, attitudes, statuses, and roles all have great influences the way that humans live our lives. The film, Far from Heaven, shows examples of the complexity of all the social systems working together, and the dynamics of our culture and structures.

Lastly, Johnson and the film help explain to me how I live and behave. Works Cited Johnson, Allan G. 2008. The Forest and the Trees. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press