Sythesis, Orwell,Hughes,Milgrim Essay, Research Paper
Many people find it difficult, if not impossible, to defy the unspoken tradition of modern authority. Stanley Milgrim s Perils of disobedience shows that an otherwise sensitive, good-natured citizen can easily be transformed into a tool, and perform actions that one would never do if given enough time to reflect. Milgrim s study suggests that an individual s need to conform to authority overrides the sense of responsibility to sort right from wrong. Langston Hughes, in Salvation, explains just how severe the personal effects can be for giving in to such pressures, and George Orwell in Shooting an Elephant, demonstrates how even individuals in positions of authority are not exempt from the rule.
George Orwell demonstrates that no matter what your beliefs, or position in society, no individual is absent form the immense pressure to conform. Orwell, a British police officer in Burma, allows an anxious crowd of locals to decide his actions for him, causing him to take a life that should not have been taken. Upon investigating reports of a rampaging elephant, Orwell finds that the elephant has now calmed down, and is a threat to no one. Orwell states, But I did not want to shoot the elephant. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him (772). Although the elephant did trample a man to death, Orwell knows that the elephant is in a calm state, and will abide quietly until the elephants owner returns. It is the pressure from the crowd that causes this British military officer to make a poor choice that he would not have made if alone. Minutes later, Orwell would find himself firing bullet after bullet trying to kill the very animal that he had just contemplated. Milgrim states, ordinary people, simply doing their jobs can become destructive agents in a terrible destructive process (614). It is this greater evil that causes Orwell to be disgusted with himself. Orwell resents imperialism, but only reinforces to himself and the natives the destructive nature of it.
Langston Hughes laments the decision he made in Salvation. In this piece, Hughes is at a church revival in which he is expected to find Jesus. Hughes is mislead to believe that he will actually see and feel Jesus. This expectation is what keeps Hughes at the altar until he is the only child left. The pressure is increased when the minister speaks to him. Hughes recalls him saying, Langston, why don t you come? Why don t you came and be saved? (32). Milgrim states, Some were totally convinced with the wrongness of their actions but could not bring themselves to make an open break with authority (614). Not having the courage to admit that the religious revelation is not happening, Hughes feels compelled to lie and come from the altar. Although Hughes never sees Jesus, the expectations of others in the church cause him, and another child, to give in and lie. Hughes admits that he could feel that the entire church was expecting him to do what he did. Ironically, the same event designed to push this conscientious child closer to God has pushed him farther away. Langston Hughes could not defy the authority that expected him to have a religious experience, causing him to lie, and later deeply regret the choice, changing him forever. In the end, a bitter, angry, young Hughes admits that he no longer believes in Jesus.
Hughes and Orwell demonstrate how normal people can react in ways they would normally condemn. Their choices clearly show that one can be conscious of what is right or wrong, yet moments later, be able to rationalize the opposite as a plausible choice. They only enforce the message that Milgrim s essay states, Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Clearly, both Hughes and Orwell regretted the decisions they made, but something compelled them to do it. It is this unwritten social rule of obedience that would force a police officer to unnecessarily kill, and a religious boy to lie in church. One must be able to realize the greater evil that can come from simple obedience without question. It is everyone s responsibility to choose right over wrong on his or her own.