Essay, Research Paper: Crucible

Literature: Arthur Miller

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The trumped-up witch hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, deteriorated the
rational, and emotional stability of its citizens. This exploited the
populations weakest qualities, and insecurities. The obvious breakdown in
Salem’s social order led to the tragedy which saw twenty innocent people hung
on the accusation of witchcraft. Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, used
hysteria to introduce personality flaws in vulnerable characters. A rigid social
system, fear, and confusion were evident conditions that became prevalent before
and during the witchtrials. These conditions only contributed to the tragedy in
Salem. The isolation of the Puritan society created a rigid social system that
did not allow for any variation in lifestyle. The strict society that was
employed at this time had a detrimental effect on the Proctor family. John
Proctor, a hard working farmer who had a bad season the year before and
struggling this year was occasionally absent at Sunday service. This was due to
the fact he needed to tend to his crops. Also, Proctor did not agree with the
appointment of Mr. Parris as the newest minister, and therefore did not have his
last child baptized. With the latest craze of witchery and swirling accusations,
John Proctor was easily indicted of being a messenger for the devil by the
testimony of his disillusioned servant Mary Warren, who in the past committed
perjury. The court who heard the testimony easily accepts it because she is a
church going person, while John Proctor slightly deviates from the norm. This
transfer of blame is also noticeable when the truth is first discovered about
what the girls were doing in the woods. The girls were not blamed. The blame was
put on Tituba, the "black" slave who was said to have
"charmed" the girls. Abigail swears that "she [Tituba] made me do
it".(pg.40) It is obvious that in the Puritan society that whatever did not
conform to what the masses had decided as proper, then the deviated, but
innocent, were to blame. This practice contributed to the tragedy in Salem. The
fear of what was unknown created an uneasiness within Salem’s population that
added to Salem’s social demise. The circumstances surrounding the witchtrials
gave residents something to blame the supernatural on. The condemning of Tituba
was mainly due to this. When Tituba took the girls into the woods, and they
performed their ceremony, something the Puritans were not accustom to, she
convicted of witchery. Along with Tituba, Martha Corey was indicted solely
because she would not allow Giles to read them. Giles also stated that "I
tried and tried and could not say my prayers. And then she close her book and
walks out of the house, and suddenly--mark this--I could pray
again!"(pg.38) This evidence of witchery is preposterous. The only thing
that is true is that Giles was not allowed to read the books, and because he did
not what the books contained, he feared them. This type of reaction throughout
the community to the supernatural, and what was not known indicted many people,
and contributed to the tragedy in Salem. The state of mass confusion in Salem
created a society of individuals who were only concerned with what was good for
them, so that they would not be the next one implicated in the witchery scandal.
This situation is clearly evident after Hale becomes privy to the true story of
what happened in the woods. Abigail abandons Tituba, and accuses her of
"sending her spirit on me in church; she makes me laugh at
prayer"(pg.41), and Abigail also says Tituba "comes to me every night
to go and drink blood"[devil’s blood](pg.41). Abigail reacts like this
only to save her from being suspected of witchery. At the end of Scene One, many
community members are accused of consorting with the devil. These names were
given by all of the girls present that took part in the ritual in the woods, in
an attempt to return to the graces of God and to be declared bewitched. This was
a common reaction that many had when accused of witchery.It led to
confrontations which pitted neighbor versus neighbor and husband versus wife.
The delirium which created this situation aided in the misfortune proceedings in
Salem. The evident destruction of Salem’s social order was due to rigid
stipulations on deviation, fear of the unknown, and mass confusion. These
conditions left Salem susceptible to an apparent epidemic such as witchcraft.
The susceptibility that Salem fell victim to, was the cause of a great tragedy
which saw twenty townspeople hung at the hands of the state. The Crucible
written by Arthur Miller is a story of a great catastrophe which highlights a
"free man’s courageous and never-ending fight against mass pressures to
make him bow down in conformity"(intro.-x) and shows how hysteria can be
used for evil purposes in an atmosphere were there is a belief in freedom and
right of dissent.
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