The Crucible by Arthur Miller
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The Crucible by Arthur Miller
innocent people. Arthur Miller’s depiction of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible, deals
with a community that starts out looking like it is tightly knit and church loving. It turns
out that once Tituba starts pointing her finger at the witches, the community starts
pointing their fingers at each other. Hysteria and hidden agendas break down the social
structure and then everyone must protect themselves from the people that they thought
were their friends. The church, legal system and the togetherness of the community died
so that children could protect their families’ social status.
Being isolated from any other group of people with different beliefs created a
church led Puritan society that was not able to accept a lot of change. The church was
against the devil, at the same time it was against such things as dancing and other
premature acts. The reputation of the family was very important to the members of the
community. When the girls were caught dancing in the woods, they lied to protect not just
themselves but the reputation of their families. They claimed that the devil took them over
and influenced them to dance. The girls also said that they saw members of the town
standing with the devil. A community living in a puritan society like Salem could easily go
into a chaotic state and have a difficult time dealing with what they consider to be the
largest form of evil.
Salem’s hysteria made the community lose faith in the spiritual beliefs that they
were trying to strictly enforce. The church lost many of its parishioners because the
interest of the town was now on Abigail because people wanted to know who was going
to be named next. When the church was trying to excommunicate John Proctor, there
were not enough people at church to do it. The people were getting misled so far as to
leave a dagger stuck in the door of their minister’s house: “Tonight, when I open my door
to leave my house--a dagger clattered to the ground...There is danger for me.”(128) were
Parris’ exact words. With the conveyer of God fearing for his life there was no longer
anyone but Abigail to lead the community.
The justice system is designed to protect the people that it serves but during the
trials the accused witch had two choices, death or imprisonment. The punishment of death
was given to all people that pleaded not guilty; the other punishment was to plead guilty
and go to jail. John Proctor gave his view of the justice system when he said “I like not the
smell of this ‘authority’ ”(29). “And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jails
from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature?”(85) said Danforth, describing the
number of people that were in jail on charges of witchcraft. There were so many people
executed that Hale commented “there are orphans wandering from house to house;
abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs
everywhere...”(130) Salem was turning into a ghost town. With Abigail controlling the
community, the church no longer getting the whole town to prayer, and an unjust legal
system, it is natural that the people were in a state of total chaos.
The unexplained was caused by the devil, so some members of Salem used the
unexplained to their advantage. Mrs. Putnam told the truth when she said, “There are
wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!”(26) Mrs. Putnam did her share
of spreading rumors after she heard that the girls were flying, so she asked Parris “How
high did she (Abigail) fly, how high?”(11). These rumors happened because people did not
want any blame put on to themselves. This ‘passing the buck’ made people start fighting
with one another such as Corey charging Putnam of having his daughter accuse a resident
of witchcraft in order to get Corey’s land. Abigail used her power of getting people to
listen to her to her advantage when she charged Proctor’s spouse with being a witch so
Abigail could live with John. This again proves that Abigail had control of the town and
the unexplained turned neighbor against neighbor.
The social breakdown in Salem was the major factor in the
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Salem witch trials, The Crucible, John Proctor, Salem, Massachusetts, Tituba, Arthur Miller, Abigail, Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials, Abigail Williams
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