“The Maid Narratives” and Cognitive Dissonance

February 25, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Political history

Cognitive dissonance is when a person feels different emotions about the same thing. The authors of The Maid Narratives encountered this when they were doing interviews of whites that had formerly had black maids.  They are conflicted with the way they felt when they were younger and the way they feel now.  When whites with maids were growing up they felt a sense of security from their maid.  Now, they feel a sense of remorse after learning the difficult conditions that their maids sometimes worked in.

I am currently researching Florence Thompson.  Thompson was the first female sheriff in the United States that had to carry out a conviction.  She was from Owensboro, Kentucky, where the last public hanging took place.  Rainey Bethea, the man committing the crime, was convicted of raping an elderly woman and was sentenced to hang.  Thompson conferred with a priest before the hanging because of the personal, internal struggle she was having.  She was faced with having to be a strong leader that her position required while still having terrible feelings about having a man’s death on her hands even though the man had already been convicted and sentenced.  Ultimately she decided to have a man from out of town perform the hanging while she supervised from a distance.

When people are placed in a conflicting situations they are required to look within themselves.  This reflection brings out thoroughly thought through decisions, considering the repercussions, particularly personal.  This dissonance sometimes occurs well after the fact, such as the whites in The Maid Narratives.  This is also beneficial because the reflection shows the next generation the flaws of the older generation’s decisions.




3 responses to “The Maid Narratives” and Cognitive Dissonance

  1. I really like how you compare these two situations. I think that you compare the two instances really well and connect them both back to the theme of cognitive dissonance. Your conclusion tied up both of the stories and the theme of cognitive dissonance extremely well. Great Job!

  2. Your exploration of internal reflection is crucial to the Civil Rights Movement. Anyone who acted within this time period considered the potential consequences of their actions and either acted in their personal best interest or the best interest of society. Though perhaps not so formally named, everyone in the community was aware of this theme of Cognitive Dissonance and how it drastically segmented the country on racial terms.

  3. by defining cognative difference in the beginning, you really helped the reader follow where you were going with the rest of the post. Awesome!

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