Unit 2.2, Assignment 2.4 – Origin stories
Q1) …Why does King create dichotomies for us to examine these two creation stories? Why does he emphasize the believability of one story over the other — as he says, he purposefully tells us the “Genesis” story with an authoritative voice, and “The Earth Diver” story with a storyteller’s voice. Why does King give us this analysis that depends on pairing up oppositions into a tidy row of dichotomies? What is he trying to show us?
In The Truth About Stories, King tells of the two creation stories of the pregnant Charm falling through the sky, and of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. He distinguishes the two stories by describing how he tells them differently and pitches the two against each other as representations of two separate ideologies of religion or thought processes inherent in the natives versus the Europeans. I think King presents this dichotomy in an effort to have his readers consider the ideas beyond––a way of saying that the dichotomies exist, I have shown them to you, now what is underneath that?
King talks about the authoritative voice he uses in his retelling of the Genesis creation myth, and how that is the basis of the European thinking related to hierarchies and power dynamics evident in the culture associated with royals and nobles versus peasants and slaves. On the topic of authority, there has been psychological studies which have identified individuals feeling powerful when in an authoritative position. Studies such as Milgram’s Shock Study and Zimbardo’s Standford Prison Study presents authority as being an idea which could cause people to act wildly out of the norm. In Patros et. al’s report of the “Underlying Effects of Authority: Past to Present”, they state that “[a]n unequal balance of power in a group setting can lead otherwise normal human beings to behaving tyrannically”. If, in such extreme cases, authority has been proven to have such adverse effects on people, then the effect of the “authoritative voice” used by King to tell the story of Adam and Eve is one which establishes power and dominance over the more peaceful and balanced Charm creation story. As Lutz writes in “Myth Understandings: First Contact, Over and Over Again”, “stories function to redress power relations between the native and newcomer” (13), and this is made apparent in King’s address of the difference in style of the telling of the creation stories.
The dichotomy between the two is not so much as a dichotomy but rather, perhaps, a pyramid, because there always needs to be one “true” story, and the one with the most authority, the one which seems to hold more power and command sits at the pinnacle whilst the plethora of other tales are spread underneath and creates a base of which the authoritative story has power over. In short, because of the nature in which the Adam and Eve story is told, it is unconsciously being labeled as a “true” story for containing authority.
King uses this distinction to highlight the inherent differences in the stories and therefore the opposing ideologies of a power driven culture versus a balance driven culture. Through the dichotomies he presents to readers, he is able to also emphasize the parts which do not fit so tidily into the row of dichotomies, of the influences and interplay of histories and stories of natives and Europeans outside of the obvious contrasts. By doing so, King paints the larger picture of the dynamics of the relationships between the two different peoples and the complexity of maintaining and managing such relations when the other is presented as otherworldly.
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Lutz, John. “Contact Over and Over Again.” Myth and Memory: Rethinking Stories of Indignenous- European
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