The Demise of Man

Prejudice is an idea that pre-exists in the minds of man and controls the actions that a specific person takes. Rod Serling’s words state that the thoughts that lie within a person, when built on the fear of the unknown, can be as harmful to society as war. When man allows his thoughts, especially those that are built upon paranoia, to lead him he begins to develop a distrust of the individuals in society, This, in turn, eventually leads to the collapse of a community. This idea can be tied into the views of Arthur Miller in “Why I Wrote The Crucible” and his own novel titled The Crucible. As Miller’s story evolves, we see how people suspecting others due to fear can drive apart a community and eventually leads to chaos. The concepts of prejudice by Rod Serling in “The Twilight Zone” episode entitled “The Monsters on Maple Street”  is supported by the ideas brought to light in The Crucible and the words of Arthur Miller in “Why I Wrote The Crucible.” Both gentlemen discuss how prejudice can influence the opinions of a person and lead to horrible consequences.

Serling’s discusses in “The Twilight Zone” how prejudice can lead to the eventual destruction of a community, and he illustrates this point in his episode “The Monsters on Maple Street.” This episode shows a town, which was once all friendly with each other, slowly tear each other apart as they become suspicious due to a paranoia of monsters living there. The idea seemed absurd, at first, but once unexplainable occurrences happen, it is no longer a ludicrous thought. One of the characters, Charlie, when asked to stop the viewing party on a man who is a suspected to be a monster, says that this suspicion would be nothing in normal circumstances, but this is an unusual circumstance, so the ideas of reality change ( “The Monsters on Maple Street”). Serling states, when referring to this episode,  “The tools of conquests do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout” and this is beautifully illustrated in “The Monsters on Maple Street” (Serling).

This same concept is show in The Crucible, the reader is shown the progression of the characters hysteria and how the townsfolk slowly spiral out of control led by their own thoughts.  Despite there not being any evidence, Abigail Williams was able to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch. Upon seeing how easily Elizabeth was singled out, many of the townsfolk followed suit and began following one another, like a herd, and making their own accusations against people they disliked. Slowly, we see people being killed because the society is engulfed in negativity and hate. As Danforth, states, people began to suspect one another and the hatred kept breeding: “a person,” he states, “is either with this court or he must be counted against it.” These actions of creating labels and judging people quickly fill the town and aids in the rapid spreading of hate: leading to the demise of the town of Salem. We see in Salem, that negative thoughts can quickly bias people and be contagious, which in turn leads to a sort of hysteria that leads to suspicion and eventual destruction.

Arthur Miller would have agreed been in agreement with Serling that bombs and explosions are not the only downfall of a society, but “simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices” can be equally destructive. In his article, “Why I wrote The Crucible,” Miller is warning us about the power of paranoia and how it is embedded in the mind of man. The reasoning in his articles seems to illustrate the similarities between communism and the witch trials, by demonstrating that both led to societies that mistreated their citizens. Fear, both men seem to agree, makes people behave in ways that they would normally not behave. Also, both men seem to highlight the plight of the innocent people who were harmed or punished for no reason of their own. Serling states: “prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy” and both the book and the TV show seem to illustrate these worlds vividly. In both of these works, the audience is shown just how insane people can act, especially when led by their irrational thoughts of prejudice and suspicion.

In all three works of literature, the human behavior of suspicion and prejudice is shown, and all three very obviously criticize it. In “The Monsters on Maple Street”, the story demonstrates how suspicion can grow and eventually lead to a society out of control where trust among the people no longer exists. Similarly, The Crucible shows how suspicion can breed when people are given the opportunity to accuse other people, often those they resent. Their rational thinking becomes tainted by hate and, in turn, the hate ,can spill over to others who follow blindly. Arthur Miller’s “Why I Wrote The Crucible” further emphasizes these actions and he seems to stress how man allows his own biases to control his actions. Many times these can be because of personal experiences, or sometimes because of the influence of others. The main argument, however, that both Miller and Serling are conveying is how human behavior – when controlled by emotion –  can lead to the eventual destruction of communities if given enough time and energy to thrive. Having analyzed all these pieces, a potential solution would be to the problem of prejudice and suspicion seems to be education. A lot of the problems, in both societies, seemed to come from irrational thoughts and beliefs; therefore, if individuals were educated to offset these opinions, with time their thoughts could be changed and that, in turn, would lead to a change in their actions.

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