Essay, Research Paper
Tragedy: The Deterioration of Salem During the Witch TrialsThe Crucible by Arthur MillerThe deterioration of Salem s social structure precipitated the murders of manyinnocent people. Arthur Miller s depiction of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible, dealswith a community that starts out looking like it is tightly knit and church loving. It turnsout that once Tituba starts pointing her finger at the witches, the community startspointing their fingers at each other. Hysteria and hidden agendas break down the socialstructure and then everyone must protect themselves from the people that they thoughtwere their friends. The church, legal system and the togetherness of the community diedso that children could protect their families social status. Being isolated from any other group of people with different beliefs created achurch led Puritan society that was not able to accept a lot of change. The church wasagainst the devil, at the same time it was against such things as dancing and otherpremature acts. The reputation of the family was very important to the members of thecommunity. When the girls were caught dancing in the woods, they lied to protect not justthemselves but the reputation of their families. They claimed that the devil took them overand influenced them to dance. The girls also said that they saw members of the townstanding with the devil. A community living in a puritan society like Salem could easily gointo a chaotic state and have a difficult time dealing with what they consider to be thelargest form of evil. Salem s hysteria made the community lose faith in the spiritual beliefs that theywere trying to strictly enforce. The church lost many of its parishioners because theinterest of the town was now on Abigail because people wanted to know who was goingto be named next. When the church was trying to excommunicate John Proctor, therewere not enough people at church to do it. The people were getting misled so far as toleave a dagger stuck in the door of their minister s house: Tonight, when I open my doorto leave my house–a dagger clattered to the ground…There is danger for me. (128) wereParris exact words. With the conveyer of God fearing for his life there was no longeranyone 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 deathwas given to all people that pleaded not guilty; the other punishment was to plead guiltyand go to jail. John Proctor gave his view of the justice system when he said I like not thesmell of this authority (29). And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jailsfrom Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature? (85) said Danforth, describing thenumber of people that were in jail on charges of witchcraft. There were so many peopleexecuted that Hale commented there are orphans wandering from house to house;abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangseverywhere… (130) Salem was turning into a ghost town. With Abigail controlling thecommunity, the church no longer getting the whole town to prayer, and an unjust legalsystem, 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 theunexplained to their advantage. Mrs. Putnam told the truth when she said, There arewheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires! (26) Mrs. Putnam did her shareof spreading rumors after she heard that the girls were flying, so she asked Parris Howhigh did she (Abigail) fly, how high? (11). These rumors happened because people did notwant any blame put on to themselves. This passing the buck made people start fightingwith one another such as Corey charging Putnam of having his daughter accuse a residentof witchcraft in order to get Corey s land. Abigail used her power of getting people tolisten to her to her advantage when she charged Proctor s spouse with being a witch soAbigail could live with John. This again proves that Abigail had control of the town andthe unexplained turned neighbor against neighbor. The social breakdown in Salem was the major factor in the tragedy that took thelives of many innocent people. There was more than one tragedy in The Crucible. The firstwas the murdering of many innocent people, and the second was that a community thatwas once very close had been broken apart. It appeared that the people of Salem were likea family but isolation actually made them unable to adapt to a troublesome situation. If thecommunity could have had a greater influence from another group of people then thesocial structure would have been able to adapt.