In the Beauty of the Lilies

by John Updike
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I need to write an essay that relates to the following words: "social, cooperative, and loyal". The intended audience is the next President of the United States.

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Since you placed this under the category of the novel In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike, I'm assuming that you are writing about how a future president might benefit from reading the book.

Many of the social problems facing the characters in the book seem outcomes of their individual life choices. Those are obviously ones over which politicians have no control. There are certain problems though, that could be ameliorated by political action. It should be noted though, that in the United States, the actions of the President are constrained by Congress, and that if the election of 2016 results in a Democratic President and a Republican Congress, much of the gridlock experienced under President Obama's second term is likely to continue.

The first major social issue we see in the story has to do with the character Esther. Although she does find success as a movie star, her character makes us aware of the continuing issue of gender inequality. Esther succeeds by trading on her sexual attractiveness. This suggests that a president should continue to work to reduce gender inequality and to continue with education reforms that ensure all people have the skills necessary to earn their livings.

Next, there is an extended description of the Paterson textile strike in the novel. Although the strike failed, many of the issues that concerned the workers, such as inhumane working conditions, exploitation of immigrants, technological obsolescence of workers, and economic inequality still plague the workers of the United States, especially in the new "gig economy." These still remain issues of importance to the president, and reflect the economic and social values of cooperation versus competition.

The standoff between federal officials and the cult at the end of the novel evoke issues of tribalism and loyalty. As seen in the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by anti-government extremists, small, tightly knit fringe groups, including cults and ideologues still take the law in their own hands. Given the wide availability of firearms to everyone in the US, including to right-wing extremists and the mentally disturbed, it will be important for the President to work closely with law enforcement to develop guidelines to minimize loss of life of innocent bystanders in such situations. 



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