The Crucible


In the Crucible Miller Reveals and explores the nature of and behaviour of a society in crisis and its effect upon individuals in that society. Discuss.


To begin with, no one is one hundred percent sure that what Miller wrote is a correct and accurate view of how a society would act in a time of crisis. In the play itself Miller talks about some of the great influences upon himself at the time of his writing of The Crucible. He talks about how he wrote the play during a time of great civil and political unrest in America, and with himself being in trouble with the law, he wrote the play as a protest towards the authority figures in his own society. This can be seen in the character Danforth, and any person who readers the play can get easily get the picture of Millers despise towards authority figures and therefore it is unlikely Miller could write a


non-biased view of society. Even still, it does not make his view completely inaccurate, as we would have to have been there to completely appreciate the factors involved in the Salem witchcraft trials.


The society of Salem is one, which is rich with strict religious practices. The citizens’ belief in God and The devil, good and evil were as strong then as our beliefs in evolution.


If you do not go along with their beliefs, by praying daily and going to church regularly, you will more than likely get a bad reputation in that particular society, and be treated very similar to a small time criminal in today’s society. The Salem civilisation is on the verge of change, this brings about a major conflict between those who believe that the society needs the religion to uphold and maintain it, and those who believe it does not.


Proctor, who is angry with Parris for his self-righteousness and bad spiritual leadership, refrains from going to church. This in return causes another problem for Proctor; he becomes an easy target for interrogation, and is used against him in court at the end of the play.


The main problem begins when a few girls decide to dance in the woods, which in the Puritan society is very unacceptable because it is believed to have some sort of supernatural meaning. In order to avoid punishment themselves, they ‘pass-the-buck’ to other women in their society, which ultimately causes the death of the innocent, as the women who are making these false accusations probably don’t realise the severity of the punishment involved until it is too late. Therefore this ‘pass-the-buck’ routine adopted by many is nothing but a selfish attempt to save them from the punishment. These happenings are the route cause of the crisis that breaks out in Salem. This is generally because in the Puritan society witchcraft is seen as a major threat to the lives of many.


The accusations being thrown around lead to the majority of society breaking into a mass hysteria, which is driven by fear, superstition and blatant lies. Although this to us seems absolutely crazy, that was the Puritans way of reacting to what was the equivalent of a suicide bomber or terrorist of another type. None of the people accused of witchcraft are actually guilty, but those who are making the accusations are so good at what they are doing, they are believed by all, including the authorities. This is not helped at all by the mass hysteria that has already tormented Salem.


The main reason this hysteria is allowed to get so far out of hand is because the so-called leaders of Salem are manipulating the falseness of the whole situation. Instead of acting as they know they should, they go along with it and see it as a major opportunity to increase their own reputation as the towns folk will be pleased they are getting what they want.


A perfect example is Danforth, who has a slight idea as to what is going on, but still prosecutes people in the name of the law. When he finally knows for sure the truth, he still goes ahead and prosecutes Proctor in order to uphold his own reputation. Parris also shows his dislike towards Proctor, although he attempts to help him at the end of the play.


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