The fact that the story of The Crucible takes place in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century made the community gullible and superstitious. According to the story, the 1800s was a time when the community was heavily manipulated by Puritan value system. The people were also greatly influenced by their religion and obedience to the authority. They strongly believed that the community must be purified if there is a threat of evilness. Hence, when the government heard that there was witchcraft and devil worship in the community of Salem, the authority immediately conducted colossal witch trials.
The community was in hysteria. The witch trial aimed to purify and preserve the order of Salem’s community. Thus, when the government held huge witch trials to eliminate the threat of evil, the people of Salem were at first supportive of the court holding the witch trials, especially since the accused devil worshippers were infamous and disreputable individuals. However, in Act III and IV, the people started to suspect the credibility of the trial when the one of the accused was Rebecca Nurse. She was an upright, wise, and saintly woman who was greatly respected in the community.
There was an uproar of confusion when the respected nurse was being executed. This encouraged Salem’s disorder and rebellion against the authority. The witch trials started to become unacceptable. The typical order of the community changed because of this. It is obvious that the public’s idea of justice was based on their personal preference or standard of people. The typical order of the community who respects the court’s judgment changed when the witch trial revealed the real personal preference of the community, and when community’s preference was not met, there would be an uproar.
Thus, when the concentration of the persecutions focused on the respectable figures, anarchy spread in the community. Consequently, the community’s rebellion placed the integrity of the court in danger. Danforth, as part of the court, was firm in maintaining the court’s integrity. They became harsh and stern to the point of forcing Proctor to make false accusations. It was the easiest way to bring back the order of conformity. The initial trials were being trusted at first, but when confusion started to settle among the townspeople, the typical order of the community changed.
As a result, the reputation of almost all the characters was threatened, and they wanted to save it. Reading the whole story of Salem, the reader may come to the conclusion that Proctor was not part of the community. He refused to name names even if it meant his death. Unlike the other members of the community, they made false accusations to uplift and save their reputation. In Act IV, no one in the community had the courage to stop the witchcraft accusations. Only Proctor chose to sacrifice himself. He chose to end his life as a dispute to his previous sins.
Giles Corey was also not part of the community. He was one of the noble characters who chose to be mute and refused to make false accusations. His intention though was to allow his son to inherit his property. Elizabeth Proctor was also excluded in the community when she refused to influence her husband’s decision of confession despite her desire to let her husband live. Instead, she gave him the freedom to choose. This shows that her moral standard was more important than her personal desires. The others were members of the community since the human nature of selfishness dominated them.
They gave importance so much to their reputation and were preoccupied with saving it. For example, Abigail Williams and Tituba lied to uplift their identity and reputation in the community since they were not popular and belonged to lower class. Reverend Parris was a perfect member of the community as well; he was overly concerned with how to build his position in the community. Reverend John Hale was also part of the community since he enjoyed the attention that was being given to him by the court as an expert on witchcraft.
However, in the end, he regretted his actions and attempted to save the lives of the remaining prisoners. Based on the discussions above, I came to understand that the trial took place for the sake of preserving and enriching one’s reputation. The witch trials started when Tituba, a servant and black woman, created lies about witchcraft. Many characters made false accusations against other individuals that manifested their hidden grudges and selfish desires. Hence, the story somehow depicts the selfish nature of human beings.
Based on how the events in the story transpired, it became clear to me that the consequences that befell the community members were rooted on their crooked moral standards. They forgot the distinction between right and wrong based from Christianity. Consequently, it created imbalance. The story also describes principles and people under pressure. It shows how people respond to pressure—either they respond with selfishness or with being firm in following the principle of truth.
Miller, Arthur and Maureen Blakesley. The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts. Oxford, England: Heinemann, 1992.