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Focus
by Arthur Miller "Focus", by Arthur Miller, raises many complex issues with its plot and its characters' interaction with one another. The book deals with a man named Mr. Newman, who lives his whole life as a xenophobic white Christian and feels that " his kind are above the rest of society". When he gets a pair of glasses, his appearance changes, and he looks like a Jew. This results in many changes in the life of Mr. Newman. Being treated as a "Jew" takes a toll on his daily life. Of the many characters in this story, only one of them, Mr. Finkelstein, is a true Jew. He is the subject of much hatred in his neighborhood, which is filled with anti-Semitic people. When Mr. Newman begins to experience a small portion of this hatred too, he turns to the Jew for some guidance. This act is the beginning of the bonding process that eventually leads into Mr. Newman saying at the end of the story that he is no better than the Jew. The relationship that these two characters have is shaped by the treatment that they both receive from their neighbors. While Mr. Newman had always been sympathetic to Mr. Finkelstein as an individual, he still thought that as a cursed Jew, Mr. Finkelstein deserved the treatment that he got. As the two of them began to receive the same torment from their neighbors, Mr. Newman looked to Mr. Finkelstein in two ways. At first, he blamed Mr. Finkelstein for being the model of the evil Jew and causing everyone to assume that Mr. Newman was just as bad. Later, Mr. Newman saw that Mr. Finkelstein was used to this treatment, so Mr. Newman looked to the Jew for counsel. The reason that their relationship developed more as the story progressed is because Mr. Newman began to realize that Finkelstein is a " civilized person and not just a worthless Jew". During the time in which Mr. Newman is discovering the "Jew in himself", he is also trying to hide it from his neighbors because of the anti-semitic sentiment. At that time, many Jewish immigrants were moving to America and making life more complicated by creating differences that didn't exist before. To deal with this, the Christians formed groups that would go around stating erroneous reasons to justify their violence towards the immigrant Jew. The story mentions how several of these groups started all around the county, with even a few anti-Semitic priests leading them on. One of these groups starts up in Mr. Newman's neighborhood and concentrates on getting Mr. Finkelstein to move. It is at this point in the story that Mr. Newman's neighbors start to think that he is a Jew also. When this happens, some of his neighbors spill the trash all over his yard, which is exactly what they had always done to Mr. Finkelstein. Mr. Newman attends a meeting of one of these groups in order that people know he is not a Jew. He listens to the words of the priest and realizes the horrible way that the Christian world is acting. He begins to see that he had acted the same way, before he got his glasses. This realization leads Mr. Newman to wonder if he really wants to try to reintegrate into Christian society. "Focus" has a complex plot in which a man is forced to deal with the problem of becoming what he most fears, a less than " normal" person. One of the messages that I feel this story is trying to send is that people who are different are not necessarily bad. The protagonist never had a real conversation or even spent any time with a Jew, so therefore he did not really know anything about these people. It is because of this that he becomes very scared of being a Jew. I feel that the effect would have been the same had Mr. Newman somehow become black or Hispanic, for the author is just using the Jew as a symbol of a person different than the "normal" white Christian. When people have no distinct contact with a group of people who has different beliefs, they become fearful and anxious and even develop a hatred. Therefore, people must come face to face with the element of society which they fear most, in order that they realize that people are generally the same they. This is what I feel is the message that Arthur Miller was trying to portray with this novel. Inside we are all the same, and people just need to realize this in order to put a stop to prejudice and racism.

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