The nature of mankind can arguably be described as one’s wish to develop a sense of acceptance or connection to something or someone. This desire to be accepted can be described as one’s wish to ‘belong’. Belonging describes the state in which someone finally reaches an affinity, whether it may be physical, emotional or otherwise with an entity, that may be a community, place or ideal. The importance of being accepted to belong can be observed in the playwright ‘The crucible’ by Arthur Miller.
In the play the hysteria that arises from accusations of witchcraft creates a chaotic situation in which the status of one’s self determines their acceptance in the community of Salem. Similarly, in the documentary ‘The devil’s playground’, different personalities struggle to secure themselves a sense of acceptance between the conflicting English and Amish world. The song ‘prisoner of society’ by the Living End also shows acceptance as a foundation of belonging in the way it narrates the inner voice of youth who are evidently not accepted by public.
In ‘The Crucible’ the accusations of involvement in witchcraft, evidently are made to compromise and ultimately destroy the status a number of individuals. With a overwhelming number of Salem members unjustly accused, including Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams satisfies not only her vengeful grudge against Elizabeth, but is brought into a deeper sense of acceptance in the Salem community.
Abigail’s manipulative nature is the driving force behind attaining such acceptance as she consistently makes false outcries to distance Elizabeth from the community and charade herself as the one who is suffering and misunderstood. This symbolic representation of using accusations to gain acceptance can be observed when Abigail pleads to John Proctor saying “She(Elizabeth) is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, snivelling woman, and you bend to her! ”. Proctor shaking her, responds “Do you look for whippin’? , as he knows of her manipulative and vengeful nature. Ultimately as Proctor holds the only knowledge of Abigail’s manipulative nature apart from the other girls, he subsequently confesses of his shortcomings as a means to bring down Abigail and her agenda. At that point he is condemned and is no longer a part of or ‘accepted’ in the strict Christian community. In the documentary ‘The Devil’s Playground’ directed by Lucy Walker, the Amish community’s unique rite of passage practice, the ‘rumspringa’, is explored.
It is the duration in which adolescents are permitted to venture into the ‘English’ world and enjoin in mainstream juvenile activities. Similar to the strict Christian bound community of Salem, the Amish community holds steadfast its values and morals, however during rumspringa activities such as smoking, drinking, experimenting with drugs as well as sexual relationships are permitted before the youth find a solid affinity with the Amish church. It is the decision of whether to commit oneself to a place and forsake attachments of the other place, that individuals such as Faron and Velda find as the ultimate struggle.
The title of the documentary in itself is a metaphor, describing the English world as a locale where Satan is readily present to play out his cards of temptation and sin. Velda, a young female adolescent after undertaking rumspringa, is shunned by her family will all affiliations detached because she chooses to depart permanently from the Amish community. The Amish community hence conveys itself the stark contrast to the devil’s playground, assertive it is a place of protection and purity for all its members. Irony plays out from this notion as well.
The way in which velda’s parents shun her so easily is ironic since parents generally provide the upmost sense of belonging in an individual’s life. If Velda did give up the English world her parents and the community would welcome her with open arms. IN this case her parents show no support and are assertive that those who continue to play with fire by associating in deviant activities are ‘damned’ to hellfire; also seen in the crucible. This easily point out how one needs to be accepted to attain the next step of belonging.
It can also be observed throughout the documentary through Faron’s story the extent of sacrifice one has to do to achieve a place of acceptance. For the amish clothing, lifestyle, beliefs and values creates a sense of community. The English world is at a difffernt level where it gives ones the opportunity to live a hedonistic life. Faron is submissive into the hedonism of the English world, at one stage becoming a drug dealer. He is unsure where he belongs as he enjoys the freedom of the English world but appreciates the positive qualities of the amish.
The conflict has him unwilling to give up either and he needs to detach from his self identity to live in either world; ‘im not English and im not amish… im just me’. IN prisoner of society, the living end propose the sense of personal struggle for teenagers to conform to what the public expects. Like the devils playground, the title metaphorically proposes the subject. Through these means, teenagers are depicted as inmates who share the common cell of detachment from society. Society would perceive this simply as social commentary, however the repititons and renforcement of notions in the song prove otherwise.