Essay, Research Paper: Crucible And Murders

Literature: Arthur Miller

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The deterioration of Salem's social structure precipitated the murders of many
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
tragedy that took the lives of many innocent people. There was more than one
tragedy in The Crucible. The first was the murdering of many innocent people,
and the second was that a community that was once very close had been broken
apart. It appeared that the people of Salem were like a family but isolation
actually made them unable to adapt to a troublesome situation. If the community
could have had a greater influence from another group of people then the social
structure would have been able to adapt.
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