Essay on The Crowd

Essay on The Crowd

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Men the most unlike in the matter of their intelligence possess instincts, passions and feelings that are very similar. In the case of everything that belongs to the realm of sentiment—religion, politics, morality, the affections and antipathies, etc.—the most eminent men seldom surpass the standard of the most ordinary individuals. From the intellectual point of view an abyss may exist between a great mathematician and his bootmaker, but from the point of view of character the difference is most often slight or non-existent.
Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd

The irrationality of the masses, be it an army designed to with the sole purpose of destruction or a political protest turned violent, has fascinated psychologists for centuries. Simply flipping through the television on a Friday night reveals society’s need to explain the senseless crimes of ordinary citizens who become a force for destruction when united. A single commonality links a news report on swarms of soccer moms gone mad at a local mall on Black Friday, a made-for-TV film dramatizing the Manson cult’s slaughters, and a documentary blaming the atrocities of the Holocaust on everything from Hitler’s unhappy childhood to syphilis: the desire to comprehend the transformation from a collection of average people to a crowd of senseless killers. In War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells examines man’s aspiration to comprehend the incomprehensible, in this case a crowd of Martians who seem to possess few humanlike emotions. Although the Martians are not a traditional crowd, War of the Worlds reflects the contemporary advances in psychology explained in The Crowd as the same rules governing a frenzied mob also controls the Martians’ “collective mind” due to a common objective (Le ...


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...al and intellectual commonalities so that he can better understand the Martians’ intentions, thereby lessening his fear of the conquerors. He comes to juxtapose the relationship between man and Martian with the relationship between lesser beasts of the earth and man. Because the survival of their race depends on it, the Martians trample man just as man has slaughtered and reorganized their own world. Wells uses this projection of emotions to examine the role of technological development in morality. By exploring the differences between man and Martian as well as the aliens’ high levels of intelligence accompanied by cruelty, Wells confirms Le Bon’s assertion that a single-minded quest strips men of all individual morals, examines man’s corrupted role as steward of the earth, and explores the relationship between technological development and moral regression.

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