Mob Mentality

8 August 2016

Research Paper – Mob Mentality Mob mentality can occur in any society. It can take place at any time, any day or any night. Mob mentality does not have a direct target. It will take over anyone, leaving them with no control over themselves. Mob mentality proves that under critical situations people will be selfish and follow others’ leads; however, the leads people usually follow are not the ones best for them. Due to large amounts of stress everyone carries, people do not think as clearly as they normally would.

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Those horrible leads that people choose to follow will eventually cause groups to become out of control. Violence usually ensues when within a large group. In their respective works, both Arthur Miller and Ray Bradbury write pieces that reflect upon social criticism and how it can corrupt any society to their breaking point. The opportunity for people to relieve their stress is not something that’s very common. So when it does come around, they will take any chance for relaxation that is given to them. Humans put their own needs in front of all others.

They do this even when someone else is worse off than they are. People go to extreme lengths to get rid of whatever it is that is causing them trouble. People add more pressure onto themselves if there’s a chance that it all can go away in the end. Abigail Williams, from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, would have done anything necessary to make sure that she was not blamed for the state Betty was in. Abigail would absolutely blame anyone else for what she had done, as long as she could get away with it. As people, we are extremely selfish creatures.

Notably when other people are after something, or someone we want. People will use others in order to get what they want, no matter the consequence. After finally getting what they want, people will no longer need whomever they were using and will simply toss others aside without looking back. People think highly of themselves and look down upon others. Humans usually accept this way of thinking due to the fact that it’s a fairly common state of mind. When one person acts in this manner, another person starts to.

People behave a certain way in groups that they would not normally act in if they were by themselves (Donely). If there is even the slightest chance that someone else will get what another person wants or needs, they will do everything in their power to make sure they get it first. Humans are greedy and self-absorbed creatures. These characteristics emerge when there is something blocking a person from getting what they want most. Abigail Williams was ready to do whatever was needed in order to get John Procter alone for herself and killing his wife wasn’t an exception.

Abigail accuses Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, of using witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. If Abigail is to be believed, Elizabeth will hang for being a witch, and John will belong to her. The emotion of jealous is easy to obtain. Jealously propels people to act on impulse and when acting on impulse, people destroy the source of what is causing their emotions to feel so strongly. Naturally, all human beings want what is best for them. We don’t think about the consequences of our actions, or how our actions will affect the ones we know and love.

Our thoughts are what we consider or suppose are right for us and we do not think about how they could affect anyone else. A lot of humans have a one-track mind; once they start something, they rarely think about anything else other than their goals until they reach them. In order to achieve what is best for them people recruit others to help them. In Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag needs help getting away from the authorities so that he can create a better life for himself. If Montag had been alone while he was in the process of running away, he very well may have gotten caught.

The men that had helped Montag escape made him think about his actions before he went through with them. If the men had not been there to help Montag, he would have acted on impulses and ruined everything for himself. Thinking differently does not have to be a bad thing. While mob mentality can be destructive to one’s own life, it can also help it thrive. Confusion is a natural part of life. At some point in everyone’s life, they don’t know what to do and when people do not know what to do in critical situations, they start to panic.

Though, if someone else does know what to do, those who are confused will follow that person. Everyone will start to mimic the actions of whoever takes the lead. What starts as one or two people doing the same thing can turn into a mass group following just one person’s lead. This is where mob mentality kicks in; most people do not question the actions of their leaders. They simply do as the person in charge does. When people don’t understand, they get stressed out. When people are stressed, they don’t think straight.

In a state of confusion or fear, people tend to join forces, causing them to do the wrong things and follow the wrong leaders (Barnhart). They do not know what, when, or why they should do it. If a person is having a difficult time grasping concepts and ideas, they hold onto any example they can. Like those in The Crucible, the girls follow Abigail’s lead because they have absolutely no idea how to cope with the situation they are in, or they’ll have to face the consequences. The young girls know that it’s not a good decision to act the way Abigail does, but they cannot think of a better option for themselves.

It was logical for the people of Salem to believe the girls could tell who were witches because, “They were part of an unhealthy, potentially dangerous social and psychological atmosphere that had long pervaded the Puritan communities,” (29) as Don Nardo states in The Salem Witch Trials. When people follow another person’s lead, they are hiding themselves from the world and everyone in it. Some people don’t like to have attention directed toward them. In fact, some people will do anything to not stand out. They will blend into a crowd by becoming more like the others within the group.

When dealing with mob mentality, humans within a group want to become more similar to the others. People constantly pretend to be something they are not. Montag does this in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Montag acts as if he still believes books are bad and that they need to be destroyed; however, Montag secretly wants to read any book that he’s able to get his hands on. He acts as if he hates books so that he is able to fit in with the rest of the firemen. He does not want to look guilty of anything, including deliberately disobeying the firemen rules.

People are and always have been naive. They’ll trust anyone if the other person has never given them any reason to doubt them. If someone is similar to another person, they will align themselves with one another. People often congregate with others that they feel are most like themselves (Donely). Montag barely knew Faber when he first confided in him. Montag trusted Faber with keeping his secret, that he had been stashing books that were meant to be burned within his house, away from the firemen. Montag was willing to trust Faber based on one meeting the two had had beforehand.

Montag felt safe with Faber due to the fact that Faber didn’t want the burning of books to continue. When people follow the leaders of a group, they do not necessarily know any information past their appearance. People follow others blindly; with the subconscious fear that without the others, they would have no one. The presence of mob mentality leads to violence. It’s hard to control a large number of people, it’s even more difficult to manage large groups when the people within it are selfish beings. The best option is to never have an extreme amount of people together; it never ends well.

When the people all have harmful personalities, they react terribly with one another and cause large amounts of violence. In The Salem Witch Trials by Sandy Asirvatham, she explains that the stresses of the Puritan’s lives, “provided fertile ground for discontent and hostility” (49). So it’s not a surprise that arguments over who were witches often broke out and led to the deaths of innocent humans when the people of Salem came together. People do not like it when they don’t get what they want or need. They throw tantrums, get angry and fights break out when in large numbers don’t receive what they truly want.

Even worse, incredible amounts of violence occur. Violence on great levels leads to mass destruction and staggering amounts of death. In The Crucible Abigail Williams has a horrible personality; she is constantly yelling or being rude to someone. When Betty says out loud that Abigail drank a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail slaps her across the face, shouting, “Shut it! Now shut it! ” (Miller 1244). In the end, Abigail causes the death of multiple people and even the man she loves for the sole reason that she didn’t get what she wanted. Time is a very important factor.

When someone has unlimited time, there is no rush and no stress; however, when people have a limited amount of time to get something done and their time is dwindling down, they start to go crazy. Over time, humans have developed a mentality to ensure better survival. By organizing into groups, the amount of chaos decreases. Groups are an efficient way to get tasks done faster and easier (Barnhart). They lessen the stress that an individual carries single handedly. Even with groups there can still be large amounts of pressure; people will do anything they can to acquire what they want.

When the hound was chasing Montag in Fahrenheit 451, he knew he only had a certain amount of time before the hound caught up with him. He began to do anything he could to mask his scent. Montag ordered Faber either burn everything or use alcohol to wipe down what Montag touched. The sprinklers were to be turned on once Montag had left so that his trace would be washed away. Montag even changed into some of Faber’s dirty clothes and drifted down a river in order to get the hound off his trail. If Montag had been alone that night the hound might have caught up to him.

When leaders turn violent, so do their followers. The girls in The Crucible were kind and sweet until they started following Abigail’s ridiculous examples. Once Abigail started to become more rebellious and angry, so did the rest of the girls in Salem that were under her influence. Abigail sent the innocent people of Salem to their death for crimes of witchcraft that they did not commit. The girls blamed the people of Salem alongside Abigail, because they thought it was the way out of their mess. People commit desperate acts when competing for something they truly want or need (“What is Mob. ”).

The girls started to send people to their death as willingly as Abigail once they realized that they could save their own skin by doing so. Both Arthur Miller and Ray Bradbury provide prime examples of how mob mentality functions. Ultimately, the downfall of a society is due to the social inactions that revolve around mob mentality. Most humans do not know how to react to high levels of chaos in the correct manner so they become more distant from the group. The end result is violence, caused by the selfishness of others. Mob mentality will take over an entire community or even population, but only if we allow it to.

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