English Learner Portfolio

Final IO Global Issue

The global issue I would like to explore in my IO would be about the conformity to social norms and conventions, looking closely at the concept of conformity and perhaps what do people conform to and why. Both Edouard Manet and Bob Dylan have expressed the challenge and refusal to conform to such norms.

Manet did this through being utterly different and went against the standards and traditional conventions for paintings at the time which perhaps lead to the start of modern art. His shift away from the traditional modes of representation allowed him to explore freedom in art during a time where art was quite restricted in terms of painting techniques and the value of realistic paintings. The basis of such traditional conventions are based upon the fact that they have always been the way they are, and over time, makes them the norms and standards for how things should be. In a time where realism was mainstream, his deliberate disregard for ‘realistic’ values made him one of the most influential artists in history, hence the name ‘father of modern arts’.  I think that also ties into Manet’s personality. He was never an obedient follower to the route that was laid out for him, as he opposed his father’s envisioned future for him as a lawyer and pursued after his passion. ‘The Luncheon On the Grass’ and ‘Olympia’ sprung off the development and impressionism, making Manet a significant figure of leadership in the movement which he perhaps did not anticipate when he painted these two artworks.

On the other hand, Bob Dylan’s song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ illustrates a dreadful world as a result of conformity. It really throws out the question as to why do people conform? Seen that such realities are cruel and desperate, why doesn’t anyone try and change things? Dylan’s call for action again places him in a place of leadership, through which people found their own voices. Typically in history, conformity is often disrupted by those who are suffering from the current ways of doing things, Dylan’s song gave a voice to the suffering communities that couldn’t fight the system, his call of action also perhaps united people together to act for the same cause. I think another thing that is quite important to recognise is how Bob Dylan sees himself. He does not think he’s a protest singer and claims that his songs ‘don’t have any meaning’. In my opinion, I feel that his songs are simply depicting reality, through which various issues and revealed, which then gave it a protest voice and fostered change.

I feel that this picture depicts pretty well how society requires us to conform. Although this image talks about education, I think social norms and expectations work in the same way to restrict what we value and what we do. Reinforcing conformity repeatedly, and making conformity a social norm as well.


I guess this image showcases the movement away from the mainstream and the opposition to conformity. However, I think it is also quite important to recognise that not conforming to one thing can also be the conformity to not conforming which is perhaps the case for many ‘followers’ in different movements throughout history. Which makes the first few people who break away from the mainstream especially significant. 

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