The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller in 1953 recalls the hysteria and madness of the Salem Witch trials of 1692. Miller incorporated many themes in his play. These themes highlight other factors in The Crucible. This essay will look at a theme which is effectively highlighted by a scene and it will explain how the theme is explored in the play as a whole. It will also show how this scene effectively highlights the theme. Puritanism controls life in the town of Salem as a number of people believed in “The Elect”. Which were certain people who seemed holy enough to be allowed entry into the Lord’s domain in the afterlife.
However Puritanism was a strict regime during their time as they believed in strict rules which determined the goodness of a person. As a result anybody who acts independently or seems slightly out of the ordinary are considered a threat to the Puritan belief. Due to the fact that the Puritans liked a close knit community, people were not allowed to act as if they had freedom otherwise they would be persecuted. A strict regime for the lord’s people, one might think that it is rather inconvenient because this lack of freedom created unvoiced resentments amongst the people of Salem.
These resentments build up and are primed to explode. The Witch Trials in “The Crucible” can be considered to be an attack against individuality: the people that were accused and convicted of witchcraft were mostly people who prioritized their private thoughts and honesty above the will of the community. The trials provided a legally authorized forum for which people could express their anger and grievances. The trials gave people power as it allowed them to voice their festering bitterness by accusing people whom they had quietly begrudged for years.
An example being the Putnams, the Putnams used the trials to gain revenge on the Nurses. Thomas Putnam got Rebecca, Francis Nurse’s honourable wife, convicted of the supernatural murder of Ann Putnam’s babies. John Proctor, the protagonist of the play battles Puritanism and the belief that individuality is wrong. Proctor himself is not a Puritan because before the play he and a young girl named Abigail Williams committed the sin of lechery. Riddled with guilt Proctor wants to break all ties with Williams as he says, “I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again. John Proctor is somewhat passive during the first two acts and he really only intervenes in the third act. The first two acts consist of accusations and cover ups by Abigail Williams and her friends. The only thing of importance in the first act is the first introduction of witchcraft which leads to a spiralling effect, destroying lives and relationships in the town of Salem. Puritanism is first introduced in the first act where Reverend Parris is tending to his daughter as she is ill. Reverend Parris is a dangerous character because he only wants to protect his reputation amongst the people of Salem.
He is willing to let others be harmed to protect his own image and in the process fuelling hysteria. The Putnams enter Parris’s home and Ann Putnam is convinced that it is the Devil’s work at hand in the town of Salem as she claims, “I’d not call it sick; the Devil’s hand touch is heavier than sick. It’s death y’know, it’s death drivin’ into them, forked and hoofed. ” Parris does not refute these claims as he knows that if said claims are known to the townsfolk then his name would ultimately be ruined.
A scene which is monumental in the idea that puritanism allows the people of Salem to act out of the ordinary because of the hysteria that has been caused by the cry of witches is when Francis Nurse’s wife is accused of the supernatural murder of Ann Putnam’s babies. This scene highlights the fact that people are using the confusion to their own benefit. A scene too which highlights it is close to the end of the play when Danforth is speaking to Cheever, “Perhaps he have some sorrow. ” Cheever replies with “I think it be the cows, sir. People are arguing over who should have ownership of the cows who have no owners anymore. One of those people is Reverend Parris because of the fact that he saved himself by, possibly controlling Abigail. Parris has not been accused once by anybody other than Proctor during the third act when he is arguing with Danforth. The scene where Danforth and Proctor are arguing also highlights the idea that puritanism does not allow individuality because, Proctor being the protagonist tries to free people from prison as he believes that the witch trials is ridiculous.
Proctor knows that people are using the Witch Trials for personal gain. The theme of Puritanism and individuality is explored throughout “The Crucible. ” There are numerous scenes which introduce this theme; these themes show the religious mania that occurred during the Salem Witch Trials. The scene which describes it best would be the Putnam’s revenge on the Nurses as it shows how before they would not dare to speak their mind and it shows the after effect where the Puritanism belief and rules slightly wanes in strength due to one small idea.
Courtney from Study Moose
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