Martin Luther King Jr. certainly had power. He was passionate about his beliefs, a stunning speaker, and a role model still looked up to today. He was able to obtain support from those with the same beliefs and influence societal norms. The power of the individual is made very clear in “Harrison Bergeron,” “The Jar,” and The Crucible. This theme in all three of these works involves a single person manipulating and controlling those surrounding them into submission. The individual holds more power than the group as displayed in these three works.
In “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. the author is addressing the power in oneself and how it can challenge the standards of society with success. “‘I shall now select my Empress!’ he said, looking down on the cowering people. ‘Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!’ A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow” (Vonnegut, page 4).
Harrison defies the government and shows his demonstrative power. Through this he can cause another individual, the ballerina, to go against the government as well. This type of power can influence and cause a ripple effect. If Harrison was able to get one person to follow his beliefs, he can get others as well. “The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched the two musicians from their chairs, and waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.
The music began again and was much improved” (Vonnegut, page 4). All of the musicians’ lives were spent playing music, not at their best. Harrison forced them to play their best by taking their handicaps off. After Harrison was killed, the musicians had to put their handicaps back on. They will never forget how their music sounded with no handicaps. Harrison was successful because he influenced others which would cause a ripple effect. Even though he and the ballerina passed, the musicians could later rebel. All it took was one person’s power to cause much chaos.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible embodies the social strength of an individual and how far they can push it. Abigail is a young woman who finds herself in a tricky situation. Our instinct is to evade trouble which is exactly what she so cunningly does. “Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.” (Miller, Act 1, page 19). It becomes clear of Abigail’s motive is to protect herself at all costs. She can silence the other girls which eventually end up going along with her. Miller is showing how a single individual can control others leading to fear, resentment, and dissatisfaction. “I have been hurt, Mr. Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin’ out! I have been near to murdered every day because I did my duty pointing out the Devil’s people—and this is my reward?” (Miller, Act 3, page 100). When Abigail is beginning to be doubted by the highest authority in town, she can redirect the blame toward others. Lies and deceit run rapid in her words yet the majority of the people believe her. When one person is in control of a situation they can shift the mood toward whatever they please making everything go just their way. During this time of the Salem Witch Trials, a single accusation dealt by a single person could put many to death. In the right circumstance, the individual is given the most supreme power.
In Ray Bradbury’s “The Jar” the author depicts how curiosity is leveraged to grant an individual power never had before. “And Charlie, for first time in his life, seized upon some strategy and clapped the lid down with a glass clatter: ‘You want to see more, drop around to my house. It’ll be there,’ he declared” (Bradbury, page 3). For the first time, Charlie can take on a power he never had before, curiosity. Irresistible and awe-inspiring it can be used to control others. One man can use curiosity to capture the attention of others around him and heard them like cattle back to his house. Charlie’s dream of being respected by his peers is achieved when he brings home the jar. “He caught on to her. ‘You spoiled my fun. That’s all that counted. It doesn’t matter if you tell the rest. I know. And I’ll never have any more fun.’” (Bradbury, page 7). Once it is known that the jar is just a bunch of nothing worth no more than two dollars, Charlie feels devastated. He feels all the power he had is zapped from him. When there is no curiosity there is no need to search for the answer because it is already known. Despite this Charlie eliminates the threat and his wife, and curiosity is in control again. Charlie’s neighbors still come into marvel at the jar. Throughout the whole story, Charlie remains in control. Individual power reigns over the community.
As revealed by “Harrison Bergeron, in” The Crucible, and “The Jar” individual power holds the most authority. The characters Harrison, Abigail, and Charlie all hold everyone under their control. Harrison shows demonstrative power and gets others to follow his commands. Abigail uses deceit and lies to have everything go her way and her way alone. Charlie uses curiosity to control his neighbors without them even knowing. Even today we see how the power of the individual is emphasized over the group. The United States is led by one president, not two, not three, not twenty. Of course, there is a system of checks and balances, but it is the president that holds the most power. It is only the individual that has the most influence.