Bandwagon is a persuasive style of writing that is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a character’s, or the writer’s, perspective. It can be considered as a type of propaganda and uses various other techniques to bring the reader to an emotional opinion that the writer was searching for.
The word “bandwagon” comes from the saying “jump on the bandwagon” meaning to join in with everyone else—to have the same perceptive. Within novels, and in rhetoric, speakers and writers will try to convince the reader of a particular way of thinking or believing.
This technique is often used in persuasive writing, but it can also appear in fiction and poetry. Sometimes it is used to a specific end, such as advancing a political belief or social policy. While other times it might be used to convince a reader to feel a particular way about a character or event. Additionally, writers demonstrate it within a story with one character convincing others of something.
Examples of Bandwagon in Literature
Example #1 1984 by George Orwell
One of the best contemporary examples of the bandwagon effect in literature comes from George Orwell’s 1984. The novel is based around the terror that the Party strikes into the hearts of its citizens. In this dystopian future, everything is controlled by fear and the knowledge that if one does not conform they’re going to disappear off to a far worse fate.
The party convinces everyone in Oceania that no one can be trusted, aside from the party that is. It is only them to which one should be devoted. One of the best-known examples is the “Two Minute Hate”. This is a period of time in which everyone focuses their hateful, pent up energy on the main enemy of the Party, Goldstein. It becomes an outlet for all that the Party suppresses.
Example #2 Animal Farm by George Orwell
Second only to 1984, Animal Farm is one of Orwell’s best-known works. It details the uprising of farm animals against their human overseers and the transformation the creatures go through. Led by the pigs, specifically one named Napoleon, the animals rise up. In the end, the pigs become just as bad as the humans were.
Despite knowing that Napoleon is in the wrong on a number of occasions the animals are convinced that this is not the case. He works hard to talk them into continually siding with him. Everyone eventually becomes too scared to do anything against his wishes.
In one particularly noteworthy passage, the animals go along with Napoleon’s version of events because that’s what everyone else is doing. Take a look at these lines from the novel:
The three hens who had been the ringleaders in the attempted rebellion over the eggs now came forward and stated that Snowball had appeared to them in a dream and incited them to disobey Napoleon’s orders. They, too, were slaughtered. Then a goose came forward and confessed to having secreted six ears of corn during the last year’s harvest and eaten them in the night. Then a sheep confessed to having urinated in the drinking pool–urged to do this, so she said, by Snowball […]
These confessions go on and on until there is a “pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet”.
Example #3 To Kill a Mockingbird
A dramatic and incredibly relevant example of the bandwagon effect in literature comes from Harper Lee’s seminal novel To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel was published in 1960 but remains as important today as it was then. It is a classic of American literature widely read in schools throughout the country and the world. The novel deals with the hard issues of rape and racial inequality and discrimination.
The narrator’s father, Atticus Finish, is appointed to defend Tom Robinson. He is a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. Atticus accepts and does everything he can to prove Tom’s innocence. Despite the evidence being in his favour, the all-white jury convicts Tom of the rape. Here are a few lines from this important section of the novel:
Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts, Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.
The speaker describes briefly and clearly the nature of the case. As well as the impossibility that Tom as ever going to be acquitted. The all-white jury, from the start, had every intention of convicting him. Together, they are subject to their own racism and the bandwagon effect ensures that Tom is convicted.