People have always wanted to create a just society, which has been manifested in various artworks. Writers and poets contemplated atrocities and pleasures of people’s lives in social, political, and cultural domains. One of the most common views regarding the matter is associated with people’s conformity to established norms, which is often harmful to some aspects of human life, individuals, or entire countries (Mallinson and Hatemi 2).
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Some ideologies that proved to be erroneous and dangerous were supported by millions of people, which led to wars and misery. The democratic society is regarded as the model of a perfect social order where justice reigns. However, many writers managed to bring to light the dark side of democracy. The major effect of conformity is people’s readiness to accept some vice for the good of all. However, the very acceptance of this idea has a corrupt nature and can lead societies to a new atrocious ideology. The present paper addresses this idea with the focus on the literary works by Robert Frost, Shirley Jackson, and Ursula Le Guin.
Authors often bring to light the most topical ideas that are in the air, especially if these concepts seem challenging to the majority of society. For instance, Shirley Jackson and Ursula Le Guin make people think of the price they are ready to pay for the good of the humankind, their communities, or even for their own wellbeing. In the fictional communities created by the two authors, people cause pain and suffering to one person to preserve the established order (prosperity of the town).
Notably, Jackson in her short story “The Lottery”, mentions that some other communities abandoned this practice making people understand that other paths are always possible and it is all about individuals’ choice (4). In Omelas, the fictional city described by Le Guin, no one dies to ensure people’s wellbeing. Instead, a child is miserable and tortured by the system and a cruel tradition, having to live and suffer every minute of its life (Le Guin 3). Some people do not conform to the malicious norm and leave the city. In both cases, they are not numerous, but still a significant number of people find another way.
When considering the order established in the two communities mentioned above, it is possible to draw some parallels with a modern democratic society. This can be the United States or any other country where democratic values are shared or, at least, proclaimed. The difference between such societies lies in the way resources are distributed and the extent to which some groups’ life is better compared to the rest of the population. The majority rules, while many interests of minority groups are unmet. Clearly, people are not as wretched as the child paying the price for Omelas’s prosperity. However, many individuals have to face injustice, which is largely accepted by the majority. People accept that some may feel less satisfied or even suffer, which is a cost the society has to pay.
The events that took place in the first part of the twentieth century made many people think of the nature of blind conformity. One of the most well-known studies on the matter conducted by Stanley Milgram involved the implementation of an experiment that revealed people’s readiness to cause suffering to others under certain conditions (Haslam and Reicher 60). The researchers concluded that obedience to authority was the reason for that behavior, which explained many events, including certain groups’ involvement in criminal activities during the Nazi rule.
Nevertheless, Haslam and Reicher have come up with another explanation stating that people’s conformity was due to their feeling a part of a group united by certain goals and values (66). The experimenter was regarded as a “representative of a valued in-group and hence to be a meaningful source of leadership” (Haslam and Reicher 67). In simple terms, people do not simply obey authority but find a higher ethical justification for their behavior.
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Robert Frost shared his ideas regarding the reasons for people’s conformity in his poem “The Road not Taken”. The poet states that all humans choose their own path depending on the analysis of their potential gains and losses. A person analyzes possible outcomes similar to the author exploring the two paths: “And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth” (Frost).
However, the pressure of the background is left aside in the poem, and the influence of the majority is not mentioned. Mallinson and Hatemi stress that norms and expected behaviors shape people’s conduct making them conform with the existing order (2). People are forced to accept the idea of the necessity of blind conformity in many ways, and only few can resist. Young generations are taught to strive for the good for all at any expense, including the acceptance of injustice.
On balance, it is necessary to emphasize that blind conformity is harmful to humanity, but is a characteristic feature of human society. Although many theories regarding the nature of this practice exist, the most recent explanations are associated with people’s ability to justify any deeds focusing on some values or goals. Irrespective of the background of this concept, the effects are obvious as they have been in the spotlight for decades. Blind conformity makes people less critical about their conduct and ready to bring injustice to this world if a higher purpose of this act will be properly described. The Nazi regime is only one of the manifestations of the effects of this trend that has to be properly researched and eliminated.
Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Poetry Foundation, 2020. Web.
Haslam, S. Alexander, and Stephen D. Reicher. “50 Years of “Obedience to Authority”: From Blind Conformity to Engaged Followership.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science, vol. 1, no. 1, 2017, 59-78.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. n.d. Web.
Le Guin, Ursula. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. n.d. Web.
Mallinson, Daniel J., and Peter K. Hatemi. “The Effects of Information and Social Conformity on Opinion Change.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 5, 2018. Web.