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Individualism vs. Societal Norm and Acceptance Essay

In the community of Salem, Massachusetts of 1692, their community is set as a theocratic society, where the church and the state come as one. Moral laws and state laws are also combined as one. Everyone is expected to live up to the established social norms. Any individual within the Puritan community whose private lives doesn’t conform to the moral laws established by the government is represented as a threat to the community and to the rule of God and true religion. In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the devil, anything that is unlawful is considered a devil’s work. Everyone in this community is expected to meet the expectations of the society, every little thing they do will be held against them.

John Proctor is an example of an individualist in this society. John Proctor was unfaithful to his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, when he had committed an affair with a younger female, Abigail Williams. Committing adultery and telling lies are some examples of sinning in the Puritan community. John Proctor is breaking from the mores, beliefs and ethical codes of the Puritan community because not only does he commit adultery, but he also hides it from the community. His actions were the main cause of false accusation of witchcraft in this society. Eventually, when he realizes everyone else’s life is at risk because of him, he confesses. John proctor chose to hide his adultery because he was afraid of his reputation being ruined and having his life put at risk because he went going against the Puritan law.

Another way John Proctor breaks away from the united societal norm of the Puritans is going against the court. The court is in high power in this society. At first, he lies to the court, admitting to witchcraft to save his own life, but when John proctor realizes it is wrong and a sin to the religion to tell a lie, he goes against his false confession to witchcraft. He caused contempt at court while trying to prove everyone’s innocence, but it did not go so well.

John Proctor went against the Puritan law because he does not want to dishonor the innocent prisoners and he will not be able to live with himself knowing that other innocents died while he committed sins and the innocents were paying for it. The following quote said by John Proctor in Act IV, clearly shows contempt at court in the Puritans’ way of life: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”

At the end, John Proctor was hung. He was hung for his mistakes, and died without lies to his name. In a theocratic society, where the church and state comes as one, every little thing you do is held against you in the long run. Individuals in the Puritan community whose lives did not meet moral laws were considered a “witch.” In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the devil, anything that is unlawful is considered a devil’s work.


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