The Crucible: Deterioration of Social Order In SalemThe trumped-up witch hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, deteriorated therational, and emotional stability of its citizens. This exploited thepopulations weakest qualities, and insecurities. The obvious breakdown inSalem’s social order led to the tragedy which saw twenty innocent people hung onthe accusation of witchcraft. Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, usedhysteria to introduce personality flaws in vulnerable characters. A rigidsocial system, fear, and confusion were evident conditions that becameprevalent before and during the witchtrials. These conditions only contributedto the tragedy in Salem.
The isolation of the Puritan society created a rigid social system thatdid not allow for any variation in lifestyle. The strict society that wasemployed at this time had a detrimental effect on the Proctor family. JohnProctor, a hard working farmer who had a bad season the year before andstruggling this year was occasionally absent at Sunday service. This was due tothe fact he needed to tend to his crops. Also, Proctor did not agree with theappointment of Mr.
Parris as the newest minister, and therefore did not havehis last child baptized. With the latest craze of witchery and swirlingaccusations, John Proctor was easily indicted of being a messenger for thedevil by the testimony of his disillusioned servant Mary Warren, who in thepast committed perjury. The court who heard the testimony easily accepts itbecause she is a church going person, while John Proctor slightly deviates fromthe norm. This transfer of blame is also noticeable when the truth is firstdiscovered about what the girls were doing in the woods. The girls were notblamed. 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) Itis obvious that in the Puritan society that whatever did not conform to whatthe masses had decided as proper, then the deviated, but innocent, were toblame. This practice contributed to the tragedy in Salem.
The fear of what was unknown created an uneasiness within Salem’spopulation that added to Salem’s social demise. The circumstances surroundingthe witchtrials gave residents something to blame the supernatural on. Thecondemning of Tituba was mainly due to this. When Tituba took the girls intothe woods, and they performed their ceremony, something the Puritans were notaccustom to, she convicted of witchery. Along with Tituba, Martha Corey wasindicted solely because she would not allow Giles to read them. Giles alsostated that I tried and tried and could not say my prayers. And then she closeher book and walks out of the house, and suddenly–mark this–I could prayagain!(pg.38) This evidence of witchery is preposterous. The only thing thatis true is that Giles was not allowed to read the books, and because he did notwhat the books contained, he feared them. This type of reaction throughout thecommunity to the supernatural, and what was not known indicted many people, andcontributed to the tragedy in Salem.
The state of mass confusion in Salem created a society of individualswho were only concerned with what was good for them, so that they would not bethe next one implicated in the witchery scandal. This situation is clearlyevident 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 meevery night to go and drink blooddevil’s blood(pg.41). Abigail reacts likethis 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 nameswere given by all of the girls present that took part in the ritual in thewoods, in an attempt to return to the graces of God and to be declaredbewitched. This was a common reaction that many had when accused of witchery. Itled to confrontations which pitted neighbor versus neighbor and husband versuswife. The delirium which created this situation aided in the misfortuneproceedings in Salem.
The evident destruction of Salem’s social order was due to rigidstipulations on deviation, fear of the unknown, and mass confusion. Theseconditions left Salem susceptible to an apparent epidemic such as witchcraft.
The susceptibility that Salem fell victim to, was the cause of a great tragedywhich saw twenty townspeople hung at the hands of the state. The Cruciblewritten 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 himbow down in conformity(intro.-x) and shows how hysteria can be used for evilpurposes in an atmosphere were there is a belief in freedom and right of dissent.
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