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Arthur Miller's play The Crucible about the town of Salem during the witch trials very much centers around the theme of staying true to oneself. He wrote the play in the 1950's in response to McCarthyism with the intention of showing society how we were repeating the mistakes our ancestors had made by wrongfully accusing the innocent and, even worse, for assuming that these people were guilty until proven innocent. In the play, the protagonist John Proctor is a farmer who has sinned by committing adultery and is now paying the price because the teenage girl with which he had the affair has accused his wife of witchcraft, a crime for which the accused must hang. Eventually, the town goes into a frenzy, accusing anyone who has wronged someone, and JOhn finds himself also accused. The only way to save his life is to give a false confession to witchcraft. However, John is unable to do so, even to save himself, because he knows that it would be mean denying the truth to himself, thus putting his character in question before the eyes of god. Rather than signing his confession, he rips it up and begs, "...leave me my name!" (Act 3).
While there are numerous novels written with this theme, Dickens' "Great Expectations," is one example. It has a plot that centers on Pip's desire to become a gentleman--his great expectation--and have social position and wealth which he believes will somehow make him more worthy and respected. However, after he moves from his humble cottage where he has lived with his sister and her kind-hearted husband, Joe, Pip encounters people who are not what they appear to be. Many are unethical, selfish, and cruel. Thus, Pip realizes that one's social position is no indication of quality in a person. Those who are true to themselves and genuine like Joe and his old friend Biddy are much better people.
Another novel that exhorts people to
Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trai whereby the worst may be inferred!
is Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." Hawthorne writes these words as a caution against the hypocrisy of the Puritans who caused Reverend Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne so much pain as they have committed a sin of passion in the passionless world of the Puritans. And, in the 'religion' of the Romantics--of which Hawthorne was one--the "sin" occurred when deying one's own nature or forcing someone else to conform to a foreign cold of principles or behavior.
A more contemporary example is the Orson Scott Card book, Ender's Game. In this book, Ender Wiggins is frequently put in situations where he could give in and lose a piece of who he is. He stands strong, however, and grows from staying true to himself. He saves the world (literally) because he does stay true to who he is.
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