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George Orwell and Langston Hughes

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 670 words Published: 18th Apr 2017

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George Orwell and Langston Hughes

Both George Orwell and Langston Hughes had external and internal pressure in their stories. With their stories “Shooting an elephant” and “Salvation” this paper will compare and contrast the two authors. This will be done by relating the author’s stories to Milgrams Experiment, which was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.

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“Perils of Obedience,” written by Stanley Milgram shows that a majority of society supports authority figure regardless of their own personal ideals. Milgram says to the reader, “For many people, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavioral tendency, indeed a potent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (Milgram). Both Orwell and Hughes provide incidents that support Milgrams findings. Orwell’s story “Shooting an Elephant” can be used as an example for Milgrams because Orwell knows he does not have to shoot the elephant, yet he does it anyway. Throughout the story Orwell is increasingly pressured to kill the elephant by the Burman’s because the elephant had killed a person. As the story is read one can start to see the connection of Milgrams experiment to Orwell shooting the elephant to save his own life. Orwell can see the rage the Burmans have toward the elephant because it killed a person, and knows he must kill the elephant to please the Burmans. In this quote,” The people expected it of me and I had got to do it: I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly” (LMR 143), One can see to force which is pressed upon him.

Hughes shows himself as a little boy at a church revival where he show are own behavioral tendencies toward obedience. When Hughes is at this revival his has pressure not only to make everyone in church happy but to also please his aunt by being saved by Jesus. During this time all the adults are going around the church sing different song about being saved so that the children will be saved and as children start to get up he is felling more and more pressure until there is only him Westley. Westley decides to get up and lie just so he could go home. This act gave Hughes a way to be obedient to the church and his aunt. Hughes got up and said he had been saved to so everyone would like him. This story is the perfect example of how a person can have so much pressure that he must be obedient and lie to save himself.

Both stories can be said to connect to Milgrams experiment, but only one of the characters could have chosen another way of doing things. While Hughes would no matter what had to have sat up eventually, Orwell did not have to shoot the elephant at all he could have walked away from the whole thing and been fine. Hughes knew that if he did not get up that the church and his aunt would be disappointed. The type of pressure should never be put on a child because they think if they do not do it the way adults want it they will not be loved. Orwell could have been attacked by the burmans but only by shooting his rife in the air would probably get the crowd to disburse.

“The dilemma inherent in submission to authority is ancient, as old as the story of Abraham, and the question of whether one should obey when commands conflict with conscience has been argued by Plato, dramatized in Antigone, and treated to philosophic analysis in almost every historical epoch”(Milgram). With the conflict of obedience so old there is no question as to why George Orwell and Langston Hughes went against their own thoughts and just did what everyone else wanted them to do.

Work Cited

Milgram, Stanley. “The Perils of Obedience.” (1974): n. pag. Web. 26 Nov 2009. <http://home.swbell.net/revscat/perilsOfObedience.html>.


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