Witness: Essay

Persuasive Essay – Witness Our separate individual identities are shaped by our interpretations of our society’s ideals and values. As individuals, we reflect in our personalities and actions by what we hear and see in the media, and through what we have observed personally in the world in general. Having an experience of our society’s rules, we are able to make informed decisions and choices by the ethical and moral concerns that we are bound by. Despite this, when moving from one country to another, we may be confronted by a different system with distinct and perhaps seemingly unusual sets of principles.
If this is indeed the case, this would be reflected by the different people in the country as a whole compared to our own. In order for unity and harmony to flourish between these two countries, establishing common ground is essential, or if this is not possible than an acknowledgement of some of their ideals and values and the abandonment of some of ours is necessary. However, in doing this we are losing our original identity. In the film, “Witness,” directed by Peter Weir, an Amish widow, Rachel Lapp, and her young son, Samuel, depart for Baltimore to visit their relative.
They take a break in a railway station in Philadelphia and Samuel, in his need to explore and understand the new world he is surrounded by, begins wondering alone in his need to belong. In the men’s toilets, he is a witness to a murder and is traumatized by it. Evidently, it changes him and his views of the world are forever altered. When he is confronted by another Amish named Eli, he is asked a series of questions leading up to as to whether he would ever kill a man. Samuel replies to this question by stating, “… nly the bad men”. Clearly, this emphasizes the change seen in Samuel through his interactions with others outside the Amish community. This proves that in general, the need to belong and the people we are influenced and surrounded by can have some significant impacts affecting who we become. Similarly, the need to blend in and belong can change the personality of an individual for the better. This is particularly seen in Witness when a cop named John Book is forced to flee his home when faced with danger.

He breaks his ties and lives with the Amish in hideout to protect himself as well as Samuel, a key witness to a murder, along with his mother. During the period that John spends with the Amish he begins to recognize their way of life and grows an appreciation for it. This is indicated when he starts to dress like the Amish. When he does this for the first time, he asks Rachel whether he looks Amish. Rachel replies by commenting, “You look plain. ” Further prove of his acceptance, is when John takes up carpentry and helps with the barn raising.
Through these actions, later he is finally accepted by Eli; this is supported when he warns John when three dangerous looking men come to see him. John’s visit to the Amish community changes him. Some may argue that it is not the group we belong to that defines who we are. In fact, they may try to reassure us that it is only our individual actions that instigate who we become. This may be particularly true in matters where the need for someone to belong to is denied by their biological family. However, it cannot be taken as a rule in general and is rarely the case.
As put forward by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our search for a group to interact and be part of is essential before feelings of self-esteem and self-actualization can be met. For our needs to be met we would not try to establish relationships with those who we have nothing in common or loathe. We are more likely to form bonds to those who resemble us most and share common interests with. It is only when these ties are broken that we feel more susceptible of any danger looming our way and immediately we form new relations with a more different group.
To fit in, this may require the adjustments of our own personality since every group has their own special and unique identity to begin with. In the case of both Samuel and John a change was observed in their identities as they migrated from one area to another to suit the needs of their particular environments. This change would have enabled them to more likely survive if they were to permanently live in such places. The clashing of ideals and values held by the Amish were not exactly intertwined with the principles of city living.
For this reason a change was observed in the behaviours of both Samuel and John. However, one might ask, what would be the case for the exceptions? What about for the people who take no recognition in their own rules and despite everything try to break every single one of them? Would they fit snugly well in place with a completely different set of ideals and values? In this society would they be seen as the respective citizens? Who knows? Clearly it is hard to imagine such a place so different to our own but one thing is certain, a society’s way of living is what defines every individual who is part of it.

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