In class this week, we raised many issues/questions regarding our reading (and viewing) of The Secret. Below is just a recap of a few:
- How does the author (Rhonda Byrne) establish authority/expertise/ethos in the text? How does her use of personal narrative/experience (her personal history/transformation), historical personages/quotes, and so-called “experts” (contributing authors) inform the text/set up her vision of happiness?
- How does she use pathos?
- Who is she offering her advice to, and why?
- Did she create this “secret” on her own/out of nowhere, or did she find it somewhere else?
- Is this vision realistic? Can individuals have “anything” they want? Is there a limit?
- What is the role of effort/action (or what should it be) in The Secret’s methodology?
- What does “thoughts become things” (or the “law of attraction”) mean in the context of Byrne’s self-help recipe?
- Are individuals totally in control of their own destiny? What about larger socio-economic factors/structural issues?
- Although Byrne attempts to democratize “success” by offering the recipe for it to anyone, is there a sense of implicit elitism in her vision?
- If you get positive things by positive thinking, and you get negative things by negative thinking, then what kind of responsibility does this place (perhaps unfairly?) on individuals? Is this a kind of “blame-the-victim” ideology?
- What happens when there are competing desires (one person wants something, but this conflicts with what someone else wants/desires)?
- Why is this vision of success/happiness compelling/seductive to its readers?
In preparation for our upcoming Essay #3, we will continue to discuss these questions (and others, which you should raise!) here in this post. The goal, as it is with Essay #3 (and all of our “happiness archive” entries) is to use critical thinking and analysis to demonstrate how Byrne constructs a particular meaning and view of happiness in The Secret and to identify the (often hidden) values that inform such a vision.
So go ahead, dig deeper, and explore what visions of happiness/values lie beneath the surface of this self-help bestseller. Everyone should post at least one comment/reply here no later than Saturday (10/5), addressing some aspect of the text (you should point to a specific place in the text, providing a quote/page number), perhaps answering one or more of these questions above, posing other questions, referencing/linking us to places in real life where you see the “Secret” ideology at work (do certain advertisements promote versions of the “secret”? e.g., if you buy these products, you will be happy), relating personal views/experiences, responding to each other, etc.
But … as always, I encourage you to drop a comment more than once (maybe twice, maybe many many more times!). Remember that you can just present a quick idea, reply to someone else, say a sentence or two. And since you all enjoyed watching the Saturday Night Live sketch that parodies The Secret (and Oprah’s promotion of it) so much in class on Tuesday (here is a link to that sketch in case you want to watch it again … thanks Michael for finding it for us!) and since you all had such insightful critiques/comments on The Secret in response, here’s another one, for your viewing pleasure (hopefully, in addition to making you laugh, it will get you thinking about some more possible critiques/contradictions/complications of The Secret’s message). Happy watching 🙂
“The Blatantly Obvious” (a The Secret parody by 24 Calamity)