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The crucible by arthur miller 2

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.

Tragedy: The Deterioration of Salem During the Witch Trials

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

John Hudson

Mrs. Phillips

Eng 0A0

Due April 12, 1996

Source: Essay UK -

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