16 Examples of Bandwagon in Literature

Definition of Bandwagon

A bandwagon is a metaphor that refers to joining or supporting a popular cause, idea or undertaking solely because it is popular, regardless of one’s personal beliefs or principles. The term comes from the political practice of touring candidates traveling around on decorated wagons during campaigns for public offices in the late 19th century United States. People were said to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ to endorse a candidate who gained popular support. Today, a ‘bandwagon effect’ describes when more and more people adopt a belief or take a certain action because others are doing so, regardless of their own beliefs or rational considerations.

Importance of Bandwagon

The bandwagon literary device can be an important tool for authors for several reasons:

  1. Social commentary: Depicting characters or societies falling prey to bandwagon thinking allows authors to subtly critique real-world issues like herd mentality, propaganda, lack of independent thought, etc. It’s a way to hold a mirror to societal problems.
  2. Theme development: Exploring how and why characters join bandwagons can help develop broader themes in a story like the power of conformity, the dangers of propaganda, importance of thinking critically, etc.
  3. Characterization: Showing whether characters think for themselves or just follow crowds reveals traits like strength of conviction, gullibility, or independent spirit that impact their roles in the narrative.
  4. Plot device: Bandwagons can help propel the plot by causing rash/foolish actions with unintended consequences as passions rise and rationality declines. It creates dramatic tension.
  5. Foreshadowing: Early bandwagon scenes act as a subtle warning or foreshadowing that poor reasoning may lead other characters or events astray as the story progresses.
  6. Setting the context: Depictions of societies immersed in bandwagon thinking sets the stage for narratives exploring authoritarianism, dystopian regimes, witch hunts, etc.
  7. Engaging the reader: Portraying the psychological factors that cause bandwagons encourages readers to reflect on their own susceptibility and think critically about popular ideas.

Examples of Bandwagon in literature

Example#1

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“A large mob, blindly dissatisfied, as unreasoning animals often are, with a general want of comfort, had risen to demand their rights.”

During the French Revolution, the masses of Paris rise up against the aristocracy out of a vague sense of discontent. However, Dickens depicts the mob as acting more like a herd of ‘unreasoning animals’ driven by emotion rather than clear logic or principles. They follow the crowd in demanding change without truly understanding the issues or having a coherent platform, relying on bandwagon thinking rather than independent rationale. This foreshadows the extreme violence that will ensue as public opinion spirals out of control.

Example#2

“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

“And finally, there was hypnop├Ždia. The repetitive nightly suggestion of desirable mental attitudes and habits – ‘I like my Ford car,’ ‘I believe in conserving popular life,’ ‘I am ever so happily tired after a hard day at my work.'”

In this dystopian future, the population has been conditioned through repetitive hypnopaedia during sleep to think and act based on popular slogans rather than individual reason. By appealing to bandwagon instincts and creating an illusion of consensus, the World Controllers manipulate citizens into blindly conforming to policies for social stability rather than examining policies on merits. Independent thought is suppressed in favor of going along with the crowd.

Example#3

“Theovie World War II” from 1984 by George Orwell

“The war was not meant to be won, it was meant to be continuous.” (Chapter 2)

Winston Smith is told by his supervisor at the Ministry of Truth that the war they are fighting is not actually meant to be won. Instead, the purpose of the war is to continue indefinitely through propaganda and spreading fear among the population. This is a classic example of the Bandwagon fallacy. Here, the war is perpetuated simply because it has become a popular and widely accepted ideology among the totalitarian regime.

Example#4

“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

“The great automobile revolution had actually killed off the human race… There were no longer any children born.” (Chapter 3)

In this dystopian novel, the widespread adoption of advanced technology has led to a decline in the human population as people become dependent on it. The Bandwagon fallacy is evident in the way that people have adopted these changes without question or critical examination, regardless of their impact on society.

Example#5

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

“We’re not supposed to male or female now, as you know. We’re just people.” (Chapter 2)

The novel has been set in a dystopian future. The Bandwagon fallacy has been used to justify the oppressive regime’s suppression of women’s rights. The regime uses language and propaganda to create a cult-like following. Here, the people have adopted the idea of political correctness without questioning its underlying assumptions or examining its effects on society.

Example#6

“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (Frodo and Sam, Chapter 3)

In the novel, the Bandwagon fallacy has been utilized to demonstrate the cult of the Dark Lord Sauron. He has gained widespread popularity and support among the inhabitants of Middle-earth. People have followed Sauron’s beliefs without thinking critically because they have become popular and widely accepted showing the fallacy in their thinking.

Example#7

“Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged”

“The first law of logic is: the law of identity. ‘A’ is ‘A.'” (Chapter 1)

In the story, many people believe in altruism without thinking deeply about it. They have accepted it because it is popular but they have not questioned if it is genuinely helpful or not. This shows the Bandwagon fallacy at play.

Example#8

“The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

“People who have given up eating meat are like people who have given up walking.” (Chapter 2)

Here, the Bandwagon fallacy has been employed to elaborate the widespread adoption of veganism among the characters, without critical examination or consideration of the underlying reasons for their decision. The characters in the story follow this idea just because it is popular without really thinking about whether it’s right or wrong. They don’t consider the ethical side or how it might affect their lives. That’s the fallacy in their thinking.

Example#9

“A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

“Twitter had become the ultimate form of communication, the only platform where it was possible to have a truly democratic conversation.” (Chapter 7)

The aforesaid book is non-fictional. The Bandwagon fallacy has been utilized to describe the widespread obsession with social media and its role to shape the modern society. People have embraced social media without really thinking about its impact that how it affects their lives. They’ve just followed along because it’s popular. That’s where the fallacy lies in their thinking.

Examples of Bandwagon in Literature

Example#10

“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.”

The boys argue they should follow rules simply because that’s what English people do, appealing to popularity rather than reason.

Example#11

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

The animals adopt the behaviors and chauvinism of humans they overthrew, fallaciously assuming a position is right because others hold it.

Example#12

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other…”

The government argues for censorship and conformity through emotional, non-rational repetition of popular slogans rather than evidence or principles.

Example#13

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“When Tom Buchanan learns that George and Myrtle have been intimate, he declares “All modern women are bolsheviks.”

Explanation: Tom condemns all modern women rather than the individual, appealing to a popular stereotype.

Example#14

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Atticus tells Scout that depriving African Americans of voting rights is unjust, but the majority disagrees.”

The novel questions the morality of popular opinion over principled stances on civil rights.

Example#15

“The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hester is ostracized simply for being an adulterer, regardless of intent or nuance, due to public opinion.

The town conforms to each other’s views rather than thinking independently.

Example#16

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

Holden laments the phoniness of others who conform without thinking for popularity’s sake.

The novel critiques relying on bandwagon thinking over authentic self-expression.

Function of Bandwagon

The bandwagon fallacy can serve some key functions when used as a literary device in novels, stories, plays, etc.:

  • Social commentary: By depicting characters or societies falling prey to bandwagon thinking, authors can critique the dangers of conformity, herd mentality, and suppression of dissent in real societies/politics.
  • Foreshadowing consequences: Using bandwagons early on hints that poor reasoning may lead other characters or events astray as passions rise and rationality declines (e.g. witch trials in The Crucible escalating out of control).
  • Characterization: Showing a character thoughtlessly going along with popular ideas rather than thinking for themselves reveals traits like laziness, weakness of conviction, or manipulability that impact their role in the story.
  • Driving conflict: Bandwagons can intensify divisions, escalate conflicts between factions as neither side truly listens, and pit characters against each other based on misinformation rather than truth.
  • Setting the stage: Descriptions of societies where independent thought has been replaced by hypnotic slogans/mantras sets the dystopian/authoritarian backdrop for what follows.
  • Theme development: How characters respond to bandwagons – conform or resist – ties into broader themes of individuality vs conformity, truth vs propaganda.
  • Plot device: Following unrealistic popular ideas can literally drive the plot forward by causing harmful or foolish actions/decisions with unintended consequences.

Further reading: Literary Devices That Start with B

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