New Superstitions for the Olds and Superstitious Minds


Superstition, as a topic in the two essays New Superstitions for Old and Superstitious Minds are discussed from different perspectives. Whereas Letty Progben focuses the topic on her personal experiences with superstition, Margaret Mead uses scientific-backed and logical arguments in explaining the role of superstition in daily lives. However, in both cases, superstition is regarded as embedded into people’s lives and as such, controls and dictates people’s beliefs and practices.  On the contrary, the purpose of the essays make a different as one tends to persuades and Medea focuses on educating and lecturing individuals for the new forms of superstition. The tonal variation is also different, with () using a humble and direct tone in upholding superstitious beliefs but refutes such beliefs through a sarcastic tone.

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In the superstitious minds, the audience of the essay is both the young and the old. In essence, Progrebin uses the essay to persuade the older generation, more adults, or particularly mothers, to embrace the practice of superstition as a way of connecting with their children. In essence, she argues that the fond memories she remembers of her mother are the superstitious practices which she always performed and lingers in her memory as if her mother lives within her.  An excellent denotation as to why the essay is for the elderly is evident in the beginning of the writing when she says “but I also happen to be superstitious, in my own fashion” (Progrebin par. 1). In this case, she appeals to a larger audience of adults are against superstition and as such, conveys the meaning that having or upholding the superstitious thoughts is normal. For this case, through rational thinking and deducting reasoning, the purpose of the essay is aimed at persuading the audience towards embracing and adapting to superstition.  Conversely, the purpose of the essay, best to say, is directed towards mothers as one of the audience because in the entire argument, superstition has been attributed to children’s behavior and how they connect or believe in what their parents tell or instruct. From the essay, the author tries to convince mothers to use forms of parenting like using fairy tales influencing children’s behaviors and making them develop or know the reality of life. Accordingly, Progrebin targets the general audience and life in general of which in her case, more is geared towards telling or convincing people how superstition reflects the uncertainties of life and how people should develop the strength and the will to move through challenges or ups and downs of life. Superstition, according to Progrebin, is a representation of the complex life where one is not certain of what will happen.  In addition, the purpose of her essay is on persuading the audience, or the general public that superstition helps people to control their lives, giving the example of “just as an athlete keeps wearing the same T-shirt in every game to prolong a winning streak, my mother’s superstitions gave her a means of imposing order on a chaotic system” (Progrebin par. 8). In essence, she insinuates that for the public, superstition should be embraced since it enables or allows people to control and put their lives in order (Thiry and d’Holbach 23).

Both essays have a similarity in that they are focusing on superstition as a topic. However, the difference is on the writing style, especially the tone used.  For Margaret Mead, her approach to the topic is critical or she sets out to criticize superstitious beliefs.  As opposed to Progrebin who tends to persuade and convince the audience into buying or abiding by the superstitious beliefs, hers is a different kind or style of writing whereby the audience or the reader is belittled, lectured on holding on to the older superstitions. Her statement is critical of those individuals who have stronger beliefs that superstition from the traditional beliefs has power over their lives (Lindeman and Marieke 33).  Accordingly, her tone or approach to the topic is sarcastic, as evident when she says that practices like knocking the wood barely remove danger (Mead par. 1). In her case, superstition is refuted and for the individuals who hold such beliefs, they are seemingly being regarded or referred to as being childish.

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Accordingly, the purpose, as compared to The New Superstitions for Old essay, is that the emphasis on academic and lecturing people on superstition of which an educational approach is evident in the essay. An excellent justification of this approach is when she quotes that “natural events have natural causes” (Mead par. 2). In this case, hers is a case of educating and informing the audience that for educated individuals, the reader has the natural ability of comprehending and differentiating the natural causes and their outcomes or effects. Accordingly, her approach as an educator on the topic is evident when she suggests the scientific justification for her case or statement by arguing that superstition is attributed to the group of practices, beliefs and thought patterns currently discarded because they barely have any scientific basis or inconsistent with the scientific knowledge (Medea par 11).  Moreover, the entire essay, defines superstition and separates the modern and old superstition.

In conclusion, Medea’s approach to superstition is the most successful in persuading individuals to develop a particular approach to thinking about superstition. Whereas Progrebin persuades individuals to embrace superstition as way of defining and controlling their lives, her approach is on the traditional superstition but Medea suggests the embracement of modern superstition since beliefs and practices are subject to modernity instead of people still ascribing to the old and traditional beliefs told long time ago. An example in her case is when she says older habits become embedded in the hearts of the elderly “and they are learned by children from generation after generation, start out life as hopefully and fearfully as their forebears did” (Mead par. 13). In her case, the explanation provided is about the need to discard the older habits of superstition which to a greater extent, do not hold significance in modernity.

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  1. Thiry, Paul H and d’Holbach, B. Superstition in all ages (1732) common sense. Tredition, 2012. Print.
  2. Lindeman, Marjaana, and Marieke Saher. “Vitalism, purpose and superstition.” British Journal of Psychology 98.1 (2007): 33-44.
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