Justice and Injustice Within “The Crucible”

Categories: The Crucible

Justice and injustice. Two concepts that have been important to our society for centuries. America was founded on the injustices the colonists were facing by the British government. Even now, justice and injustice have become important points of contention in contemporary history. Many groups have differing opinions on what justice is and isn’t. This also applies to injustice. When dissecting and deconstructing “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, the question arises. As an allegory for how Miller was mistreated by HUAC, how does “The Crucible” portray justice and/or injustice?

Firstly, by what standard is justice defined and, conversely, injustice? What person can dictate what encompasses the boundaries of justice? Shall it be religion and allow God to define the boundaries by which society should function and punish its wrongdoers? Shall it be economy and allow decisions to be made based on how the markets shall suffer from losses? What decent system of human morality can truly engross all the facets of justice and, therefore, be applied to participants on a global scale? During the time period of “The Crucible”, it was a religion that pushed forth the legal system of early Colonial America.

The Bible had written down the rules and boundaries as God had commanded of humanity from millennia prior.

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In conjunction with this, the British legal system also plays a role in the rulings of Salem as America at the time was still under the rule of the British.

Primarily, the characters of John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, and Abigail Williams represents justice and injustice.

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In Act One, injustice is immediately shown with the blame for the girls’ strange behavior being pushed on Tituba, a Bahamian slave owned by Reverend Samuel Parris (described as a Negro). As inferred by the time period that both the story takes place and the time it was written, many problems that white people were placed on black people. In 1692, the year of the play’s setting, slavery was still legal in the colonies. In 1953, the year was the play was written, segregation hadn’t yet been outlawed. In fact, the issues of segregation had continued from the end of the Civil War to about 1965, when Jim Crow laws were repealed. Slavery and the discrimination felt by the black community and other minorities is a great injustice that has stained but shaped America into the country it is today. Another factor to consider is that outrage is seen to alter the scope and direction of injustice in "The Crucible", in this case, because Mr. Putnam's greed for land has cost the lives of others. On the other hand, the envy of Ann Putnam caused injustice to flourish in "The Crucible". Mrs. Putnam faces an internal conflict within herself as she lost seven of her children during pregnancy. Therefore, she finds it necessary to have somebody else to blame for the deaths of her children. Moreover, When Abigail Williams and the girls were discovered dancing in the woods by Reverend Parris, there were reports of witches among them, when Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam were found to be bewitched.

Once the girls discover this, they became more and more scared of being convicted of witchcraft. Abigail is the first to "confess" to see the devil, and all the other girls join in, so they would not be blamed. "I saw Sarah Good with the Devil. I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil. I saw the Bridget Bishop with the Devil.” Rebecca Nurse, Francis Nurse's wife, who was a well-respected community member, was one of the first people to be convicted. This disruption caused great fear among the Salem residents, as Rebecca Nurse would have been least likely to be accused of being one to associate with the Devil. "If Rebecca Nurse is tainted then nothing's left to stop the whole green world from burning." Goody Putnam was the one who accused her of witchcraft for the death of her seven children, but even without any verifiable evidence, Rebecca Nurse is hung for " sending her spirit on them." Once the allegations started, the community took away many innocent people. They were then pressured either to confess that they were witches, to save themselves from a public hanging, or to deny that they were witches, protecting their reputation, but subjecting themselves to an unjust public hanging. Over the course of a year, twenty innocent people were put to death because four children did not want to confess that they engaged Tituba in her activities. Within the course of that year, about two hundred people were accused of witchcraft. That is injustice. Allowing the innocent to perish for your sins and misdeeds is the greatest injustice and terrible evil.

Justice, paradoxically, is shown from Acts Two through Four via the members of the Court of Salem. Salem was a very theocratic society at the time and, as such, most disputes and disagreements were settled according to what is written in the Bible. As seen later on in Acts Three and Four, the judicial system they have relies heavily on the word of the Bible. Giles Corey, Mary Warren, Elizabeth, and John Proctor were all tried for supposed witchcraft or bewitchment. In the Bible, witchcraft is mentioned in numerous places through both sections of it, calling it an act of the flesh. The Bible talks about how multiple people have done witchcraft in those times and how it is a sin that can result in the Second Death. These four people are being served an injustice as they have both been falsely accused and poorly defended from these accusations, however, Hathorne is trying to serve justice to those who are perceived as having committed a terrible and heinous crime. This justice also ties in greatly with Miller’s fight for justice in the 1950s. Justice and courts are so rigid that none of the Salem people have personal freedoms of their own.

At the time he wrote the play Miller challenged the fairness of the Salem justice system and that of the US justice system in the 1950s. In the 1950s, communism was repressed by McCarthyism. Someone accused of being a communist would be incarcerated. Anyone who criticized the government was brought before the court and asked to name people at communist gatherings which they had seen. Arthur Miller disagreed with the process and decided to express his opinions. If he had written a play on Senator McCarthy and his justice systems, he would have been arrested and the play would have been canceled and not shown. He made the play about Salem's witchcraft to cover up his true meaning while being a polemic teaching people about the justice system's corruption. All of Salem's characters represent U.S. people in the 1950s. The Senators are represented by the judges. By showing the injustice of their justice and how they lose sight of what should be a punishable crime, Miller makes them disliked by the audience.

To sum up, “The Crucible” is a work that displays both justice and injustice in a variety of ways. Whether it be the racial injustice faced by Tituba, the moral injustice faced by over two hundred innocent people, the twisted justice of Judge Hathorne, or the justice Miller had gotten after dealing with HUAC, Miller had written an entertaining and complex play that had challenged the morality of both the Puritans and their conservative society heavily based on piety as well as the paranoid society of ‘50s America due to the threat of communism. It is a play that questions the decisions made by a higher authority that, albeit with good intentions, had begun to destroy people’s lives because of their flawed judgment.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Justice and Injustice Within “The Crucible”. (2020, Sep 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/justice-and-injustice-within-the-crucible-essay

Justice and Injustice Within “The Crucible” essay
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