The mob mentality is evident in the scene with Jimmie and his friends as they dare each other to approach Henry (Part XX). Jimmie’s companions believe that Henry is a monster and a spectacle to be feared. Henry is obviously made the end of a really cruel joke. Mob mentality goes along with the concept of “same thinking,” yet closely related to the negative energy this movement entails. This mentality is expressed through aggression and chaos by a group of people who share a same thought. In this case, Jimmie’s companions have this perspective of Henry and is obviously aggressive in wanting to prove to one another that they are tough enough to approach such a “monster.” The separation between normal and safe versus abnormality and horror is executed well by Crane. Henry is “othered” by the boys and therefore seen as a threat. All threats tend to have an aggressive response, as expressed in the mob mentality.
However, I think that Crane’s use of “fear for the other” and “mob mentality” is not necessarily to show the obvious point that the people who are seeing Henry as a “monster” are the true evil; but to simply point out the consequences to that particular train of thought. In this scene, Crane uses children to portray the loss of a sort of innocence because of the crude way they joke around with Henry. It’s as if the reason why they are like this, is because of all the tales and actions of the adults in the story had shaped their mindsets to also view Henry as scary.
The adults are spreading the monstrous aspects of Henry instead of his heroic action, and this “mob mentality” of outcasting him is overpowering the better, more accurate account of who is really is. Which is also why Jimmie tags along. Did he forget it was Henry who saved him? No, I don’t think so. It’s just that when so many people around you are saying something is a certain way, or doing the same thing, one tends to lean closer to that side; sometimes unknowingly. Jimmie was being psyched up by his friends, ultimately leading him to approach Henry.
I also feel like Jimmie didn’t want to do the dare. Deep down he knew it was wrong and he also remembered Henry as a friend and not the person everyone feared. However, due to peer pressure he did it anyways. The result of succumbing to the mob mentality is very painful to witness. Jimmie, the little boy who had a good relationship with Henry, allowed the praise of his comrades to turn on him. He enjoyed the praise he received after doing the dare and felt connected to the bigger boys. Jimmie felt high and mighty, something that would have been very different had he “chickened out.”
Crane shows us that when one goes along with the mob mentality, you can lose your sense of self and completely shut out previous beliefs. Togetherness makes a group powerful, however; it is the idea that either makes them or breaks them.
A contemporary example of the mob mentality has got to be pop culture on social media. When there is “major” or “breaking” news about a celebrity, Netizens go in a frenzy. You have people ranting on Twitter, re-blogging posts, and posting status’ on Facebook about whatever it is going on. When Kim Kardashian “broke the internet” with her booty pic, she was all everyone talked about. A lot of people criticized her while others praised her. The two sides had this particular depiction of who Kim is and all that she does, which leads to a great amount of aggression on the web.
I found this really interesting article about mob mentality and examples of it throughout history. It shows how it has been a practice long before, as well as relevant today.