Stories of Ordinary SurvivaleBook - 1989
How do people survive each day? What keeps them going? Is there a guiding sense of purpose? How do they use the power of language to cope with ordinary life?
Inspired by the works of Studs Terkel and others, Catherine Sullivan Norton conducted a series of interviews with persons who represent a sample of the population effectively coping with life. Over a period of seven months she interviewed forty-six people in a small Midwest town. The twenty-five men and twenty-one women, whose ages range from eighteen to seventy-four, represent many segments of society.
Drawing from more than a thousand pages of dialogue, Norton has made their words the key feature of her work. At the heart of this book are the real-life working metaphors people use to give meaning to their lives. Each individual's personal metaphor has the power to articulate what "life is like" for him or her.
A trained communicator, Norton began her research with the idea that people use metaphor in their daily lives to help them cope. She soon discovered that people confront life and resolve problems by using powerful metaphors and supportive stories to sustain them. When the interviews were completed Norton was surprised to discover how hard people's lives are, how well they cope, and what clear vision they have.
In chapter one Norton specifically asks "How does language help us cope?" It examines the relationship between metaphor and coping, introducing the concept of a life metaphor. Chapter two develops the idea of a life orientation, showing how it fits into this study. The next four chapters describe the life orientations as reflected in the chapter titles: The Antagonist, The Enthusiast, The Fatalist, and The Spectator. In the final chapter Norton offers conclusions drawn from the interviews. In an appendix she explains her methods.