The Sociological Imagination, By C. Wright Mills

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The sociological imagination, a concept used by C. Wright Mills, is essentially the ability to perceive a situation or act in a much larger social context as well as examining the situation or act from many perspectives. In particular, it plays a paramount role in Donna Gaines ' Teenage Wasteland. It is a tragic story of 4 teens who together, committed suicide. The teens were deemed as “dropouts, druggies” [Teenage Wasteland 8.2] by newspapers and were still treated with disdain even after their deaths. However, using the sociological imagination, Gaines argues that this is not simply a suicide committed by “troubled teens” but other underlying themes are present.

One of the first instances where Gaines incorporates the concept of the sociological imagination is when she describes how she reacted to how the people of Bergenfield acted after the death of the 4 teens. Gaines mentions “even after they were dead, nobody cut them slack… they were referred as 'troubled losers '”. [Teenage Wasteland 8.5] Gaines is clearly frustrated at how her community treats the dead teens with disdain. However, through the sociological imagination, Gaines mentions a much greater setback for society as a result of this experience. Gaines mentions “the Bergenfield suicides symbolized a tragic defeat for young people”. [Teenage Wasteland 8.6] Essentially, Gaines employs sociological imagination by explaining how the death of the 4 teens is only tragic because they were treated with disdain
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