emThe Crucible: Deterioration of Social Order In Salem
The trumped-up witch hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, deteriorated the
rational, and emotional stability of its citizens.
This exploited the
populations weakest qualities, and insecurities. The obvious breakdown in
Salem's social order led to the tragedy which saw twenty innocent people hung on
the accusation of witchcraft. Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, used
hysteria to introduce personality flaws in vulnerable characters. A rigid
social system, fear, and confusion were evident conditions that became
prevalent before and during the witchtrials. These conditions only contributed
to the tragedy in Salem.
The isolation of the Puritan society created a rigid social system that
did not allow for any variation in lifestyle.
The strict society that was
employed at this time had a detrimental effect on the Proctor family. John
Proctor, a hard working farmer who had a bad season the year before and
struggling this year was occasionally absent at Sunday service. This was due to
the fact he needed to tend to his crops. Also, Proctor did not agree with the
appointment of Mr.
Parris as the newest minister, and therefore did not have
his last child baptized. With the latest craze of witchery and swirling
accusations, John Proctor was easily indicted of being a messenger for the
devil by the testimony of his disillusioned servant Mary Warren, who in the
past committed perjury. The court who heard the testimony easily accepts it
because she is a church going person, while John Proctor slightly deviates from
the norm. This transfer of blame is also noticeable when the truth is first
discovered about what the girls were doing in the woods. The girls were not
blamed. The blame was put on Tituba, the black slave who was said to have
charmed the girls.
Abigail swears that she Tituba made me do it.(pg.40) It
is obvious that in the Puritan society that whatever did not conform to what
the masses had decided as proper, then the deviated, but innocent, were to
blame. This practice contributed to the tragedy in Salem.
The fear of what was unknown created an uneasiness within Salem's
population that added to Salem's social demise.
The circumstances surrounding
the witchtrials gave residents something to blame the supernatural on. The
condemning of Tituba was mainly due to this. When Tituba took the girls into
the woods, and they performed their ceremony, something the Puritans were not
accustom to, she convicted of witchery. Along with Tituba, Martha Corey was
indicted solely because she would not allow Giles to read them. Giles also
stated that I tried and tried and could not say my prayers.
And then she close
her book and walks out of the house, and suddenly--mark this--I could pray
again!(pg.38) This evidence of witchery is preposterous. The only thing that
is true is that Giles was not allowed to read the books, and because he did not
what the books contained, he feared them. This type of reaction throughout the
community to the supernatural, and what was not known indicted many people, and
contributed to the tragedy in Salem.
The state of mass confusion in Salem created a society of individuals
who were only concerned with what was good for them, so that they would not be
the next one implicated in the witchery scandal. This situation is clearly
evident after Hale becomes privy to the true story of what happened in the woods.Abigail abandons Tituba, and accuses her of sending her spirit on me in church;
she makes me laugh at prayer(pg.41), and Abigail also says Tituba comes to me
every night to go and drink blooddevil's blood(pg.41). Abigail reacts like
this only to save her from being suspected of witchery.
At the end of Scene One,
many community members are accused of consorting with the devil. These names
were given by all of the girls present that took part in the ritual in the
woods, in an attempt to return to the graces of God and to be declared
bewitched. This was a common reaction that many had when accused of witchery. It
led to confrontations which pitted neighbor versus neighbor and husband versus
wife. The delirium which created this situation aided in the misfortune
proceedings in Salem.
The evident destruction of Salem's social order was due to rigid
stipulations on deviation, fear of the unknown, and mass confusion. These
conditions left Salem susceptible to an apparent epidemic such as witchcraft.The susceptibility that Salem fell victim to, was the cause of a great tragedy
which saw twenty townspeople hung at the hands of the state. The Crucible
written by Arthur Miller is a story of a great catastrophe which highlights a
free man's courageous and never-ending fight against mass pressures to make him
bow down in conformity(intro.-x) and shows how hysteria can be used for evil
purposes in an atmosphere were there is a belief in freedom and right of dissent.