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Normal: A Majority’S Opinion

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Alex wakes up, and dresses in a rush. She doesn’t want to run into her landlord who will remind her she’s 3 months late on rent. On the way to work, she stops by the Starbucks right in the corner next to her building, and drinks her $2.75 white mocha while waiting for the bus. While in New York, Paris Hilton is waking up in a 3 million dollar mansion, and is also starting her day. Paris has her personal manicurist do her nails first, and then puts on her $30,000 diamond encrusted watch. She dresses her teacup Chihuahua in a Chanel sweater, and heads off to a VIP lounge in Vegas in her private jet. There’s no doubt that the rich and famous are different from the rest of us, but what is different? And for that matter, what is normal? Based on David Drury’s story “Things We Knew When the House Caught Fire”, “normal” can be defined as a standard measurement set by a majority. Yet “normal” is not a stable thing, since the majority’s opinion varies depending on the environment, and normal can be noticed when it’s compared with something that’s believed unusual.

In Drury’s particular story the majority is a wealthy suburban community where what stands out is the new family. In an environment like Magnolia Park Drive, the residents must meet certain requirements to belong. David Drury’s story illustrates the definition of normal residents by naming an inventory of items that the respectable members of the community should have, “They were the bad neighbors. That was the thinking. But let me back up. Here is a list of things: BMW, Sports utility vehicle, Franchise coffee, a Martha Stewart garden you pay someone to garden…a dog with a leash who eats biscotti” (117). Normal at Magnolia Park Drive is owning a BMW, and drinking expensive coffee. Anything less is weird, and unacceptable. The Bainer kids disrupt the community’s harmony with their “Incredible Hulk T-shirts” (118), and their “purple-popsicle tongues” (118) while all the other kids are wearing “squeaky white Reeboks, Bugle Boys, designer backpacks, and twenty-five-dollar haircuts” (118). The Bainer kids don’t dress or act like the majority. The Bainers represent abnormality and disorder because they do not fit the criteria to belong in the new neighborhood. In this case what’s normal is determined by the rich suburban community’s standards, and to them the Bainers were not normal.

Drury’s story also notes that normal can be defined when there’s something abnormal to compare it with. The rich children felt a sense of belonging by noting how the Bainers’ strange behavior set them apart from the rest. Drury points this out by stating, “But for now, while we ourselves were searching to fit, we felt a sense of place in at least knowing that the Bainers did not” (119). A common notion of abnormality towards the new family makes the rich kids themselves feel normal. The Bainers did not play or think like the other children. This is perceived when Baby Glen licks a worm from a rock in front of the rich kids. To the Magnolia Park Drive kids the Bainers were worm eating freaks. By comparing the Bainers abnormality to the neighborhood’s usual lifestyle, the rich kids



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