The Elephant in the Room: Social Norms and Negative Feedback Loops

In “The Elephant Vanishes”, the elephant is able to disrupt society by simply disappearing. With media coverage, police investigations and the main character’s obsessive thoughts, the disappearance is the center of the story and causes a lot of excitement.

The elephant, by simply existing, shook up the lives of the town. The social ‘norm’ was a town that didn’t own an elephant. However, when every zoo refused to take it, they were almost forced into it. The main character’s entire life was also changed when this elephant disappeared. His daily routine shifted and he nearly got a girlfriend, something that was definitely not in his plan for the future.

However, as the story continues, these shifts are corrected, like a negative feedback loop. The big change of the elephant was fixed by its disappearance, and the town was happy to return to normal. They quickly began to forget about the entire event, bringing everything back to the normal baseline.

The main character also returned to normal, deciding not to ask the woman on a date and filling his time with work and ‘normal’ activities, without the elephant.

This entire story felt like it was exposing how difficult it is to truly breakout of a social mold and do something that is different. The people around you and even your inner self will do everything in their power to force you back into whatever societal expectation you have gone against, no matter how small.

One thought on “The Elephant in the Room: Social Norms and Negative Feedback Loops

  1. TRE B

    Cool analysis of the story. I enjoyed how you talked about the social norms breaking apart when something unexpected happens and then when people forget about it, it’s like it never occurred in the first place.


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