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Many important issues may be seen as varieties of the problem of the balance between the individual's freedom and rights and the stability and well-being of the group. Discuss this problem with reference to literature or topics studied.

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English Essay Paper 2, November 1997 Many important issues may be seen as varieties of the problem of the balance between the individual's freedom and rights and the stability and well-being of the group. Discuss this problem with reference to literature or topics studied. The problem of the balance between an individual's freedom and rights and the demands and claims of the group or bigger entity that the individual is part of, is pervasive in all different levels of society. It can be observed in the smaller unity of problems within the family, but as well in the relationship between state and individual. In two of the works I have studied, "All my Sons" by Arthur Miller and "Native Son" by Richard Wright, this problem is clearly expressed. In Richard Wright's "Native Son" the tension exists between Bigger Thomas, a black American in the Chicago of the 1930s and the society that surrounds him. He suffers from the suppression of blacks by the white majority in the USA, which does not give him the freedom to fully develop and realize his dreams. Instead, he is restricted by the society's expectations and the prescribed roles that everyone is supposed to fulfil. ...read more.


Richard Wright very effectively expresses the individual's inner conflict when trying to find a balance between the own prospects and goals and the society's expectations and restricting forces. In Bigger Thomas' case, this inner conflict expresses itself in a destructive and not acceptable way, but it brings the reader to reflect about the balance between individual and society that seems to be so difficult to achieve and about the kind of society in which such intense pressures are created. In his play "All my Sons", Arthur Miller takes a different approach on the topic. Here it is the individual's struggle with the family as a group that determines the course of events. As in "Native Son", the setting is the USA, but the happenings take place about 20 years after the Second World War. The main character Joe Keller has illegally sold cracked cylinder heads to the Air Force during the Second World War, which lead to the subsequent crashing of the planes equipped with those cylinder heads. Tragically, Joe Keller's own son Larry was among those pilots who died as a result. For twenty years, this has been hushed up in the family, the topic was not talked about, in order to preserve the obligatory harmony in the family. ...read more.


There are on the one hand the family members who have to surrender to the society's expectation of forming a perfect, harmonic family in which conflicts are not allowed, which prevents them from getting to know about the truth and their own past (as in the case of Chris). On the other hand there is the individual, represented by Joe Keller, who has to realize his liability towards his family, the community he lives in. In conclusion I can say that from the two works I have analysed here, it becomes clear that the struggle between the individual and the group can be the source of various problems, even as grave as murder as is the case in "Native Son". The position of the individual towards the group and its role in it have to be constantly redefined and cannot be conserved, as "All my Sons" shows, because even after 20 years, an underlying conflict will inevitably express itself. However, as Arthur Miller shows, the relation between individual and group is a mutual one, rather than one-sided. It is often easy to criticise the society for creating pressures on the individual that restrict its rights and freedoms - something which is certainly important. But one should not on the other hand forget the individual's responsibilities towards the community it is living in. 09/01/03 English A2 Higher Level ...read more.

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