Ruth Benedict Essay

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Ruth Benedict

Ruth Benedict’s anthropological book, Patterns of Culture explores the dualism of culture and personality. Benedict studies different cultures such as the Zuni tribe and the Dobu Indians. Each culture she finds is so different and distinctive in relation to the norm of our society. Each difference is what makes it unique. Benedict compares the likenesses of culture and individuality, “A culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought or action” (46), but note, they are not the same by use of the word, “like.” Benedict is saying that figuratively, cultures are like personalities. Culture and individuality are intertwined and dependent upon each other for survival. The Zuni’s, according to
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When an entire people only care about himself or herself, what becomes of the whole? Perhaps what Benedict is trying to assert is that culture and personality are not the same, nor are they different. A personality is shaped by the culture in which it is born into. A culture is shaped by the repeated ceremonies, traditions, beliefs, and ideals performed by the individuals in the community over time:

No individual can arrive at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates. Conversely, no civilization has in it any element that the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual. Where else could any trait come from except from the behaviour of a man or a woman or a child? (253)

What Benedict is saying here is that an individual can never discover the depths of himself or herself without the scrutiny of a culture as a guideline. For if he has no culture, he has no way of measurement! Likewise, culture cannot exist if it does not reap from the actions and behavior of human beings. In other words, individual personality and culture cannot exist solely without another. Culture and personality work together in unison in a process of giving-and-taking. According to Benedict, it is not important to stress what sets culture and individual apart. It is important to concentrate on what it is that brings them together, “It is always a give-and-take. The problem of the individual is not

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