Conformity and the Individual Essay
Conformity and the Individual
Two texts we have studied this semester are The Wave and Dead Poet’s Society. Both of these texts explore the concept of Conformity and Individuality by putting average people in a place where they feel pressured to act upon something. They have two choices, to do the same as everyone else and conform, or to be different and rebel. In its extreme form conformity is the loss of individuality and free will. An extreme conformist is unable to make a decision for him/herself. An extreme individual has to be different no-matter what, this means nothing he/she does can be the same as anything else.
Thus the extreme individual is little different from the conformist in that he/she loses his/her choice as the ego takes over, thereby losing their freewill. It’s like a see-saw. You start at the pivot where everyone is equal. Walk towards either end (conformity or individuality) and you begin to tilt towards one side or the other making it hard to walk backwards, however if you walk too far in either direction you’ll hit the ground. The Wave explores the idea of conformity through the use and embellishment of a true story.
Let us analyse the title, The Wave, When one thinks of a wave they think of a huge mass that sweeps through, washing away what used to be. The group called The Wave is exactly that. The members follow a leader (the current). They pick up new people as they advance through force or freewill (the current pulls water with it, gathering more and more as it gets larger and larger) and it ended when the leader realised how wrong he was and stopped leading, (the waves hit the beach and disperse, they have nowhere left to go).
However waves are repetitive, they do not just come once, this is where the comparison ends. Waves do not learn from their past experience; humans do. When the members of The Wave realised what they were doing they began to understand what had happened; if someone tried to control them again they would be more wary. Therefore, they have changed (also like waves, no two waves are the same). Although conformity itself is the lack of change when it ends nothing is the same again. So it is the act of change between conformity and individuality that creates the most change.
Dead poets society used a totally different approach. The Wave started with individuals, these individuals changed to fit in and became conformists, then, after realising what they had done they took control and became stronger individuals. The characters from Dead Poet’s Society were conformists, they changed and grew, becoming individuals (albeit slower), and finally found the ‘Sweet Spot’ (or pivot of the see-saw) which allowed them to be safe but still think for themselves. Once again we shall examine the title.
Dead Poet’s Society is a group of individuals, or at-least that’s the impression we get at first. However, after much analysis I have come to the conclusion that this may not be so. Although these boys are rebelling against the school, they are conforming amongst themselves and to their teacher (Mr Keeting). This group, The Dead Poet’s Society, was Mr Keeting’s idea in the first place. The students respected and admired Mr Keeting and therefore automatically decided that his idea had to be a good one.
We viewers get the same impression when we watch the film. We know that the person who acts Mr Keeting is kind and funny, we believe that whatever he says is right. Also, when we look at the characterisation and expressions on some of the students we can see the true emotions which underlie the words.. When Neil first starts asking his friends if they want to resurrect the society most of them express reluctance. However most of them join the group out of curiosity.
Those who do not are pressured by the members, they say how much fun it will be and try and ‘guilt’ them into coming. For the sake of mateship they agree to join. In conclusion both texts illustrate Conformity and the Individual. The characters grow and strengthen due to a change of values and ideals. Individuality brings about change slowly, conformity stifles change, but when a person grows and actually swaps from one to the other, that is when they change, grow and learn the most.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 October 2017