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Two authors. Two backgrounds. Two principles. Two stories. Aldous Huxley the author of Brave New World and Arthur Miller the author of The Crucible share many of the same ideologies regarding character development in their novels. Aldous Huxley had a different background than Arthur Miller in reference to the time period that they were alive during. Aldous Huxley was born over 20 years before Arthur Miller. This caused their writing styles to differ. Miller also decided to write on past events that had real elements to his novel whereas Huxley decided to write based of the concept of dystopian literature.
A cultural difference can be seen between Huxley and Miller as Huxley lived primarily in England whereas Miller lived primarily in the United States of America. Huxley was influenced most by the current politics and technology of the day and age that he lived in to shape the story of Brave New World into the satirical masterpiece that criticized our society.
He wrote about the way that technology has progressed to offer conformity in a dystopian society. Miller was also influenced by the current politics in the era of fear. People were taught to conform to societal standards due to the fact that during this time there was a stigma against those who believe in the ideas of communism and there was a fear that those displaying those ideas were in powerful positions. While both novels come from two very different authors with two very different backgrounds, they both represent two very similar ideas.
In certain situations, some characters will display a sense of individuality whereas others are not as brave and will adhere to the masses by following the principles of conformity. These authors display these ideas in two different fashions as Huxley takes a satirical approach by creating a society that mocks the people of their time using fictional creations in a fictional dystopia. While Huxley’s novel was a creation of his fantasy it did reflect the behavior and attitude of the people in this era. While Huxley decided to choose this manner to express his ideas of his time, Miller decided to use a more historical and concrete approach to the issues that he was witnessing. He decided to write about the way that a historical event had caused many people to react in irrational ways due to mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials which he saw was reflected in the people of his time. In both novels the ideas of individuality and conformity are prevalent through the attitude and actions of the characters and how they adapt into the situation that they are placed in. In the Crucible. The characters are expected to be perfect puritans. They fear the unknown and those who are different. Their fear is also contagious. Men and women have certain roles that they are expected to play. Due to this climate in the setting of this play, conformity runs rampant amongst the population. Those who dare oppose the conformists will be met with their own death. These societal norms are ingrained in those who value their life. The population is controlled by their own irrational decision making. One wrong move and it could mean the end for a character. In the novel, Brave New World, the characters are expected to be one with society. They are genetically modified to have a certain place in the community, and they are altered to like their position. They are also expected to partake in societal events like the Solidarity Service. The people are controlled through different methods throughout the novel which include but are not limited to surveillance of the population and even drug induced control. It is evident there is no room for outsiders within these two very different populations. These outsiders have the power to ruin the conformity of the masses. Through their bravery they can upheave the values these conformists hold dear to themselves. In the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and the dystopian novel, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, these authors use authors style by incorporating characterization, symbols, and themes to construct unique characters who either choose to comply with societal values versus those who choose to challenge the norms and pursue individuality.
Societal norms, a term that is defined as common rules and traditions that a group abides by. In these two novels characterization plays a big role in the development of both individualists and conformists. Within any piece of literature, authors create unique characters within unique societies but in every work, there are characters who want to adhere to society and those who do not succumb to the pressure to conform. Authors use characterization to create both types of characters. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller shows how conformity can lead to mass hysteria. He uses Mrs. Putnam to best exemplify this idea. Mrs. Putnam’s seven children died early. After the accusations of witchcraft surround the town Mrs. Putnam has come to believe that the reason behind her their deaths is witchcraft. Her jealousy of Rebecca Nurse leads her to accuse Goody Nurse of being a witch. Mrs. Putnam in the beginning may not have believed in witchcraft but because the town was so quick to accept that witches were the cause of all their problems. Ms. Putnam began to feel the same. She chooses to be one with society. Mrs. Putnam states “Don’t you understand it, sir? There is a murdering witch among us, bound to keep himself in the dark” (Act 1, pg. 16). This is the point Mrs. Putnam reaches where she finally accepts the ideas of the majority. On the other hand, there is Abigail Williams. She has an affair with John Proctor, a married man and she realizes that she will not get to be with him. He chooses his wife, Elizabeth, over her. Instead of accepting defeat, she takes advantage of the towns fear to get what she wants, which ultimately is the death of Elizabeth. She does not allow herself to be the submitting little puritan girl. She wants power and she takes it. Abigail has not been indoctrinated by the conformists as she states “I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men!” (Act 1, pg. 24). This shows that Abigail has rejected the teachings on how to be the “perfect puritan” as she is aware that she has been lied to on the path that she needs to take. This helps to push Abigail onto the path of individuality and she further represents this concept through her actions and attitude as the novel progresses. Arthur Miller creates Mrs. Putnam to represent conformity and Abigail to represent individuality through the use of characterization these individuals follow two separate paths based on the situation that they are put into. Those with the strongest will prevail with their own freedoms however the ones who cannot resist the mob will become a part of it. Miller utilized characterization to fully develop these characters to represent a type of person that was reflected in his society. One that follows and does as the crowd and one that has their own thoughts and follows no one but themselves. This characterization is also evident in Brave New World. Bernard Marx is the model of conformity. Bernard does not fit the uniformity that usually characterizes all members of the same caste. He is an Alpha of high intelligence and therefore a member of the elite, but he is small and therefore regarded as deformed. He is unhappy in a world where everyone else is happy. At first Bernard seems to take pleasure in his differentness, to like being a nonconformist and a rebel. Later, he reveals that his rebellion is less a matter of belief than of his own failure to be accepted. When he returns from the Savage Reservation with John, he is suddenly popular with important people and successful with women, and he loves it. Underneath, he has always wanted to be a happy member of the ruling class. He wants to be an accepted part of society. Bernard Marx was an outsider that got a taste of the inside. This one taste left him addicted just like the soma that is used to control him. Bernard yearns to be a part of the majority when he “thought better of it and took four tablets of soma” (Huxley, 161). As the story progresses Bernard realizes he isn’t really as different as he would like to be. He slowly succumbs to the will of the world controllers. In the beginning he used to flaunt the way he used to think and despised other characters on the way they fit in however, deep down Bernard knew that they were all the same on the inside. Just one of the paws of the world controllers. On the contrary, there is John the savage. He doesn’t belong at either he Savage Reservation or the brave new world. When he is brought to the Brave New World it is obvious that His beliefs contradict those of this new society. Bernard’s dissatisfaction with his society expresses itself most characteristically in sullen resentment and imagined heroism, but John lives out his ideals, however unwisely. In turning aside Lenina’s advances, John rejects the society’s values. He acts boldly in calling the Deltas to rebellion and in throwing out the soma. Finally, he faces the powerful Mustapha Mond deliberately and intelligently and sets out on his own to create a life for himself. Through these characters, Miller and Huxley demonstrate the motivations of each character and why they choose to interact with society.
Authors use symbols in literature to further elaborate on a complex topic. In these two works, Miller and Huxley use symbols to further develop the idea of conformity. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses two main symbols the witch trials and the stones that pressed Giles Corey to death. The Salem Witch Trials show how quickly ideas in a conforming society can travel. The fear of witchcraft caused the people of Salem to disregard what they knew about their neighbors and turn on them. The people conformed to the ideas of others and let fear spread. If the people of Salem were not so quick to listen to the ideas of others the trials could have been prevented. They lived in a small community everyone knew everyone. They knew that they were living with good people, but they let the ideas of others create fear. The girls who stood behind Abigail Williams and her accusations conformed to her ideas. She made them believe that they were doing the right thing. Others followed her because they feared her. Regardless they followed her. These girls are the epitome of conformity. Another symbol Miller utilizes is the stones that killed Giles Corey. The stones represent the weight of societies expectations killing individuality. Corey offers evidence that Thomas Putnam falsely accused a man as a witch to get his land, and the judge asks Corey to give the name of the man who heard Putnam’s conversation as evidence, Corey refuses to give the name so to protect him. He is pressed in hopes that he will give up a name, but he doesn’t and dies. Corey did not allow the masses to win. He chooses to defy society and die. Miller isn’t the only author to use symbols to show conformity or lack thereof. Huxley uses the drug, soma, as a major symbol throughout the novel. The drug soma is a symbol of the use of instant gratification to control the World State’s population. It is also a symbol of the powerful influence of science and technology on society. Those who take the Soma are those who accept society. The best example of this acceptance is Lenina Crowne. She willingly takes soma because she believes that it is perfectly normal to do so. She never questions it and she enjoy it. Those who refuse soma are those who want to hold on to their individuality. John the Savage demonstrates this concept. He does not want to take the soma. John wakes up one morning and finds out that he took soma and participated in orgy. He is disgusted with himself. Instead of choosing to live with this sin, he decides to kill himself. He decides he does not want to live in a world that controls its people in such a way.
Symbols are not the only tools that these authors use to comment on conformity. Authors use themes to explain why the characters in the book live the way they do and the significance of their actions. There themes not only apply to their works but can be applied elsewhere. In the two works, the themes explain why the characters choose to do what they do. Huxley in his foreword states that the theme of Brave New World “’is the advancement of science as it affects human individuals.” The theme can be expanded to the idea that the use of technology and science as a means of control can lead to loss of individuality leading to conformity. In his novel, Huxley did not focus on physical sciences like nuclear physics, though even in 1931 he knew that the production of nuclear energy (and weapons) was probable. He was more worried about dangers that appeared more obvious at that time- the possible misuse of biology, physiology, and psychology to achieve community, identity, and stability. In the Brave New World society, everyone is engineered to like who they are and what they do. No one is different, everyone has the same morals. They live by the idea of “Community, Identity, and Stability”. 2. In the first chapter, the D.H.C. proudly explains the biochemical technology that makes possible the production of virtually identical human beings and, in doing so, introduces Huxley’s theme of individuality under assault. Bokanovsky’s Process, which arrests normal human development while promoting the production of dozens of identical eggs, deliberately deprives human beings of their unique, individual natures, and so makes overt processes for controlling them unnecessary. There is no room for different. In The Crucible, one of the main theme is that it is better to sacrifice one’s life than one’s honor, integrity, and principles. This theme has to do with those individuals who do not conform to society. Individuals give up their honor and integrity to fit in what society wants. When someone in Salem was accused of witchcraft, they could save their life by confessing to the crime. This is what society wanted. Some of those people did confess like Tituba and Sarah Good but others chose to hold onto their honor and die. This is the case with John Proctor. If he confesses to witchcraft, he will be able to live with his wife Elizabeth, but he will have to live with the sin of lying to save his life. In the end, he decides that it’s better for him to die a good man in the eyes of God, then live in sin. John is just one character, who represents all those who didn’t confess and chose to die. This theme from the Crucible can also be applied to brave new world. John the Savage choose to kill himself them live with the fact that he had given up his values and participated in the horrific society that is brave new world. Just like John Proctor, he believed it would be better to die and not let society win rather than live with the guilt of his action.
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