The Parallels between The Crucible and The Rwanda Genocide The themes of justice, community and sacrifice in The Crucible are universal and can be identified in many modern events in history, including the Rwanda Genocide. The genocide in Rwanda and The Salem Witch Hunts in The Crucible have many striking similarities, primarily these are: the hunting down and killing of a group of people identified as being different, the mass killing of people for no valid reason and the taking of revenge on a whole group of people for the acts of one or more individuals of that group. Common to these two events is the ruthless hunting down of victims. The judges in The Crucible pressure Abigail and the girls for the names of possible witches. Their mission is to convict as many as possible, without questioning if they may be innocent.
The judges are merciless predators hunting their prey, exactly like the relentless Hutu’s seeking out the Tutsi’s in every part of Rwanda. The Hutu’s burst into people’s homes, ruthlessly searching for any Tutsi, ready to savagely torture them with machetes before killing them. Any Tutsi they find, regardless of age or sex, gets brutally slaughtered in order to totally eliminate the tribe. Another similarity is the relative escalation of death and murder once the trials/genocide had started. The numbers of deaths in The Crucible were much greater than anyone in the beginning could have predicted. Once Abigail realised the extent of the damage she had caused and saw how out of hand the trials had gotten, she fled. The violence in Rwanda reached extremes far greater than expected and became a genocide, resulting in the deaths of between 500 000-1 000 000 people, with thousands and thousands of brutally butchered corpses littering the streets.
The motive behind both events is revenge. In The Crucible, Abigail initially uses the idea of witchcraft to save her own skin, she then realises that she can use it as excuse to seek revenge on Elizabeth Proctor for dismissing her and destroying her relationship with John Proctor. Similarly, the Hutu’s seek revenge on the Tutsi’s for shooting down their president, killing him and everyone else in the airplane. The Hutu’s believe the Tutsi’s were trying to regain power. There was a long history of rivalry and violence between these two tribes and the killing of the president was the catalyst ignited the voracious flames of revenge. The Hutu’s began their manhunt to find and kill the Tutsi’s in revenge for the years of perceived oppression when the Tutsi’s ruled Rwanda.
Like John Proctor in The Crucible, there too is a protagonist in the Rwanda Genocide – Paul Rusesabagina. They both display strength in standing up for what is right, they refuse to betray their friends and they both show great courage to do what is right, even if it means sacrificing themselves. In The Crucible, as things start to get out of hand, John takes it on himself to stand up to the authority and set things right. Even when standing up against the church places suspicion on him, John will not compromise his beliefs and fights for what he believes is right. This is the same fight Paul Rusesabagina undertakes. Paul refuses to fall into the violence and hatred between the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s. He questions the idea that Hutu’s are better than Tutsi’s. He himself, a Hutu, is married to a Tutsi and he will not let himself be threatened into changing his beliefs or into following what the other Hutu’s are doing.
As a Hutu, Paul is expected to despise the Tutsi’s and to be a part of the violence and the killing. Instead he takes in the homeless, terrified Tutsi refugees and turned the hotel he was managing into a refugee camp. Paul knew that he and his family would be killed if the Hutu’s discovered what he was doing, but he did not falter. He took them in, protected them and provided for them when no one else had the courage to. He refused to betray or abandon his family and friends or his people. He saved the lives of 1 268 refugees through his sheer strength, intelligence, perseverance and bravery. Paul’s refusal to betray his people to save himself is strikingly similar to John’s refusal to betray his friends. Although his betrayal would have saved his life and allowed him to be with his family, he could not do it.
John’s refusal to betray his friends leads to the ultimate sacrifice. His final act of defiance, to refuse to be part of something untruthful, ultimately led to his death. This emphasises his strength of character and his immense courage. Like John Proctor, Paul also made sacrifices and took great risks. Paul sacrifices his home, his job, the safety of his family and was even willing to sacrifice his life to save the lives of people he didn’t even know, but was willing to protect. He gave help to anyone who needed it, Hutu or Tutsi. Both of these acts of sacrifice, from just one individual, led to the saving of many lives.
The themes of justice, community and sacrifice in The Crucible are universal and timeless. The Crucible teaches us about these themes and teaches us to identify them in historical events. The baseless killing of innocent people simply because they belong to a certain group is repeated over and over in history along with how the courage of one or many individual/s can lead to the saving of multiple lives. There are always individuals in brutal situations who display enormous courage and humanity in standing up for what is right and not blindly following others; individuals who have the courage to question authority.
The Crucible teaches us that the courage of one individual can save the lives of many if they only have the strength to question and to stand up for what they believe. The Crucible teaches us to identify these themes in real life events. In addition to the Rwanda Genocide, the relevance of The Crucible is manifested in other recent situations, we only have to consider school girl Malala Yousafzi who was shot in the head by the Taliban after speaking out and standing up for the right of girls to go to school in Afghanistan. The themes of justice, community and sacrifice are evident in The Crucible and The Crucible teaches us to recognise them in real life situations and teaches us the importance of courage and sacrifice, and the great impact that one brave individual can have in a horrific and seemingly hopeless situation.
Courtney from Study Moose
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