How do you explore the extent to which an individual (in a text) either enriches or challenges a community or group?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the first steps in exploring belonging in a text is to examine the relationships an individual has to their social order.  As a character, how do they through both actions and words define what it means to be in a social setting?  How do they see themselves in the eyes of others?  Through this, one can establish a good foundation of how they see themselves and the world in which they belong.  This will allow a better understanding to emerge of how they enrich or challenge a community setting.  It also serves as the baseline to examine the change that might result from this point.  Paying attention to how a character is at the start of the work and then trace their evolution throughout a work might be the best way to explore how an individual works within or against their social setting, community, or group.

The first image that came into my mind when reading the question was Miller's "The Crucible." In Act I, the audience gets an immediate read on how Abigail Williams sees herself within her social order.  Her enforcement of the code of silence amongst the girls who wish to tell the truth is quite revealing about how she views society.  Abigail is one who understands how her social order works and understands that she can get what she wants in a more plausible manner if she is able to deceive the social order by pretending to enrich the group, while actually challenging it.  Along these lines, when John Proctor enters, we see that he has a challenging relationship with the group as he seeks only to remedy his marriage as being the most important element and is not so concerned with the social setting as much as Abigail is.

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