Within These Halls

A look at the failure of society in a public school

by Melissa Bilstein

A hallway that covers up the truth of a high school.

Take a walk between the white washed walls and the colorless floors. At a glance what do you see? You might think you see the regular seemingly confident crowds of acne faced boys and squealing girls roaming around. Now look again; look closely, the girls and boys you see are chasing down new fashions and trends in order to perfect every part of themselves. Wait and watch as the true values of this high school reveal themselves. In this high school the self absorbed swarms of chatter will consume you; and if you're lucky, you can make it out. But for some of the less fortunate souls they can't and will never escape their shallow ways. These pupils of the meaningless chatter are stuck and will never realize the world beyond the walls of their classroom. This is our society, this is our school and as Stephen Kendrick once wrote “Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. ”. Not only do we justify this in ourselves; we defend it. Some people will justify their actions no matter the cost; whether it is in their money or in their life. A Society is a group of people who voluntarily come together to accomplish common goals. Whether those goals are as big as achieving world peace or as small as graduating. This is why our society much like that of F. Scott Fitzgerald's “The Great Gatsby” will fail because chasing perfection and constantly tearing apart those who don’t results in shallowness. This shallowness keeps us from coming together and forming a real society in which we can have and achieve common goals.

Being in the same graduating class you’d think we would all have the same goal: graduating, however this is not the case. Yes we all want to graduate, most of us hope to achieve a higher education but the way we seem to be going about this is not coherent. The truth of the matter is that most students feel like they are being torn down by their classmates. Sure they might not be doing it intentionally but every little snicker or snarky remark that’s made can be heard by someone. This leaves the hearer (whether the remark was about them or not) thinking about how others see them and forces them to join the cult of children trying to look and act above their age with either an overdose of makeup or a large bill from the nearest clothing store. When asked if they ever felt a social pressure to change the way they looked eight out of ten students said that at one point in their high school career they did feel pressure to change, one student even stated “If you dress strangely (although it is not as big a problem for guys as it is for ladies) or act out of the norm, then you're going to not only be treated differently, but feel unwanted. It's a sad life.” It is indeed a sad life to feel outcast by the people around you. This is why many people would rather change who they are than feel this way. This pressure to change who you are in order to fit in can be easily compared to that of “The Great Gatsby”.

The East Eggers were so involved in gossip it put pressure on everyone to try to look and be like them. Like many students in high school Myrtle tried to change herself to fit into the East Egg. She desperately tried to be like an East Egger; whenever she was around Tom she changed the way she dressed and acted “Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before, and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress…With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a change.” (30) Myrtle wanted to be someone she wasn’t and she tried everything she could to fit in but it eventually cost her her life.

Everyone in the East egg just like in this school have different goals that collide and compete but never come together; exposing the weakness of the society. Myrtle’s death was a result of this exposure. Myrtle ran into the street in one last attempt to be accepted by the very people who drove her into this shallowness. When she was brutally killed it was a cruel example of how that society tore people apart.

Yes, Myrtle unfortunately was too concerned about how everyone else viewed her she couldn’t come to her senses and stay true to herself. But she wasn’t alone, in reality all of East Egg was like this, this can be simply shown by their house’s “Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”(5) all these house’s were similar they were all white and palaces in a row among the water. No one in the East egg had a house that was different. Because they were too scared to look different and be judged for it. This behavior is nearly identical to that of our high school. The students here worry too much of how others will perceive them so they conform to the social standards. This forces us to be stuck and we can’t accomplish anything greater until we break free of these standards that “define” us.