Rev. Parris: Greed and Lies in The Crucible

Human nature has a tendency, a fad if you will, to display traits of selfishness and a “me first, you later” attitude. This sort of thinking often leads people to do unjust or politically incorrect things, and it gets them in trouble with the law, the government, or other people. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible this sort of trait is shown by many characters, propelling the plot, and killing off more and more innocent people. No character displays this trait better than Reverend Parris, as throughout the script, every action that Parris makes is for a personal gain of some sort, or a level of self-preservation. Reverend Parris, in his acts of freed, self-preservation, and deceit, propels the plot and propels innocent people towards their deaths, all because he wishes to save his reputation and life.

Parris, mostly at the beginning, allows his first character trait of greed to show. This revelation establishes an important baseline, because it manifests his character type, and tells the reasons why he does the many actions he performs later in the play. One example of Parris’ greed is when Parris is speaking to a group of people — Putnam, Proctor, Rebbecca Nurse, and Giles — and makes reference to the money that he should be allowed to be supplied with, as he wants more for firewood. He says that “The salary is sixty six pound, Mr. Proctor! I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College” (Miller, 29). This shows that, because Mr. Parris left Barbados rich and supposedly fits the heroic and charitable image, he still yearns to be wealthy, as well as have power over the town at the same time. Another example of Parris’ greed arises not long after the conversation on wood, when Proctor mentions that Parris is the first minister of many to request a deed to the house that he lives in. Parris responds to this remark by saying, “Man! Don’t a minister deserve a house to live in?” (Miller 30). This, again, shows that Parris wants the comfort of living in affluence, while having the power of being a minister. His statement makes his character trait of greed extremely evident. It also displays to the reader that Parris might do things simply because he is greedy, or because he has ulterior motives. All in all, Parris’ greed, which plays in with other actions, brings out other emotions and voices that often make this particular character look bad. Yet his underhanded personality does not appear to the others visiting in the town, because he appears as a good citizen.

Parris, as the plot progresses, further propels the accusation of witches, basically because he does not want his reputation tarnished or his position impeached. He goes about telling the truth, but he edits out the parts that could make him look in any way disreputable. This tactic shows his character trait of deceit. He is not quite ethical, because leaving out any truly important side of the truth is the same as telling a lie. One can assume that, if this is the case, then he lied at great length over the course of the play. In the beginning, while Parris is first meeting Rev. Hale, the two men have a conversation involving what the girls were doing in the woods. While they talk, he notes that “I think I ought to say that I — I saw a kettle in the grass where they were dancing.” (Miller 42). This ties later with the fact that he forgets to mention this extremely important detail when it is about to bring Abigail down, and save John Proctor. However, to save his reputation (which he thinks John Proctor is working to destroy) he leaves this detail out in order to essentially sentence John to death. He also, throughout the book, changes many of his statements as they best fit the situation, and whether he is speaking to someone who is on his side or not. Another example of Parris’ deceit occurs when he attempts to hide the truth, which he secretly knows. When Proctor presents the depositions with Mary Warren, Parris continuously claims “This is a clear attack upon the court!” (Miller 94). Though Danforth is not swayed by this action, it still shows that Parris is willing to anything to save his reputation, even lie and make false accusations. Parris tries to distract from the argument through this declaration; however, Hale jumps in with his natural logic and goes against the ploy, so that the conversation continues on. Parris, when his tactics are successful, makes characters such as John Proctor and Hale look as though they are the ones telling the lies, even though they are the innocent ones. He is similar to Abigail in this character trait in that the more he lies, the more the other people look guilty.

Overall, Parris’s motivations throughout the play are explained by his negative qualities, like greed and deceit. These qualities come out in a time when his reputation is at risk, and so he lashes out in order to save it. This general action alone accentuates his negative qualities. Parris attacks John, leaves the truth out about Abigail, and constantly begs for more money or material items. Though not all his demonstrations of his horrible character traits propel the plot in a negative direction, his character does evolve throughout the play, and with this evolution comes the destruction of other characters. There is a small chance that, if Parris did not have the characteristics he did, his initial response to what Abigail actually told him would have stopped the plot right in its tracks. Many lives would, indeed, have been saved.

Puritans, the Devil, and American Literature

“The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving and “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne are both short stories that illustrate Puritan ideas about the place of evil in human nature. Both short stories revolve around a central character and his personal struggle with the “Devil.” Tom Walker conspires with the Devil for monetary gain, while Goodman Brown’s interaction with the Devil causes him to question his faith. The authors utilize the literary device of allegory to depict Puritan ideas of good and evil, as evidenced by Tom Walker and Goodman Brown, and the complementary characters of Faith and Tom Walker’s Wife.

“The Devil and Tom Walker” and “Young Goodman Brown” both use a central character to illustrate a secondary meaning. Tom Walker is used to illustrate the Puritan ideal of evil, human greed. He is described to us as a miserly, unkempt, and brash old man—traits that give him a specific and realistic personality. However, as the narrative develops, one is able to understand the abstract meaning that Tom Walker’s character represents. In the story, Tom Walker sells himself to the Devil in order to obtain monetary wealth: “You are the usurer for my money!” said the black legs, with delight. “When will you want the rhino?” This very night.” “Done!” said the devil. “Done!” said Tom Walker. —So they shook hands, and struck a bargain” (Irving, 10). Tom Walker’s pact with the Devil represents humanity’s natural greed—the desire for more.

In much the same fashion as Tom Walker, Goodman Brown is used as an allegory to illustrate a secondary meaning. Goodman Brown embodies a Puritan ideal of evil by representing man himself; Hawthorne’s protagonist is introduced as a young religious man, but this image quickly fades once Goodman Brown is revealed to be meeting with the Devil. Goodman Brown attempts to keep his faith as he ventures deeper and deeper into the forest with the Devil by his side, “having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples, touching the matter thou wot’st of” (Hawthorne, 2). Ultimately, he succumbs to the evil he has witnessed within his own acquaintances: “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come devil! for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne, 5). Goodman Brown represents man himself—he attempts to follow his own path through life, but cannot avoid the evils the world has to offer.

Tom Walker and Goodman Brown illustrate human greed and humanity, respectively. However, Faith is used to illustrate a Puritan ideal of goodness: faith in humanity. Although Faith is a fairly flat character, she plays an instrumental role in the development of the story and its themes. When Goodman Brown ventures into the woods to meet with the Devil, he is hesitant to follow the Devil any farther due to his love of Faith, “Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after her?” (Hawthorne, 4). Faith represents Goodman Brown’s faith in humanity, and is all that is keeping him from going farther with the Devil. Likewise, “Faith” is what causes Goodman Brown to later follow the Devil to the ceremony. After he hears his Faith “uttering lamentations”, Goodman Brown loses not only Faith, but his faith in humanity as well. Faith represents a personal bond to humanity, and is used by Hawthorne to illustrate Puritan ideals of good and evil.

Faith is seemingly the polar opposite of Tom Walker’s wife. In spite of this, Tom Walker’s wife is used by Irving to illustrate a Puritan ideal of evil, a human greed that is in many ways compatible with her mate’s. Much like her husband, she is described as a miserly woman: “He had a wife as miserly as himself; they were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other” (Irving, 1). Her greed is evident, moreover, in her specific actions: “…she urged her husband to comply with the black man’s terms and secure what would make them wealthy for life…At length she determined to drive the bargain on her own account, and if she succeeded, to keep all the gain to herself” (Irving, 6). She initially wants her husband to form a pact with the Devil for her own monetary gain, but after her husband refuses, she intends to do so herself for uniquely selfish purposes. Tom Walker’s wife represents the inner greed in humans, and is a depiction of Puritan ideals of good and evil.

In creating characters who are at once individualized and symbolic, Hawthorne and Irving use allegory to depict Puritan ideas of good and evil, as evidenced by Tom Walker and Goodman Brown, and Faith and Tom Walker’s Wife. Both stories, through such devices, allude to common human characteristics such as faith and greed. As in The Crucible, characters are seen questioning their faith and falling victim to their own inert greed. In this later work of American literature, Abigail Williams’ greed is evident accuses Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft out of desire to have John Proctor all to herself. Thomas Putnam’s greed is seen when he is accused of telling his daughter to accuse villagers of witchcraft in order to purchase their auctioned land. Reverend Hale and John Proctor begin to waver in their faith after all the accusations of witchcraft in Salem, almost as Goodman Brown wavers in his faith. In each narrative, distinct and somewhat realistic characters are used to represent Puritan ideals of good and evil.

The Evolution of Reverend Hale

How can a trial turn a religious minister into a man separated from a town’s power structure? In The Crucible, Reverend Hale is sent to Salem to deal with an alleged outbreak of witchcraft. At the beginning of the play, Hale is a confidant man, having just cured a witchcraft outbreak in his hometown of Beverly. As the play goes on, he experiences the injustices of the court system, which lead to his eventual separation from the court. Although Reverend Hale is a man confident in his religion when he is first brought to Salem, his strict religious beliefs deteriorate as he witnesses the injustices in the Salem theocracy.

At the time of his arrival in Salem, Reverend Hale is full of arrogance about his ability to put an end to the suspected witchcraft and dark arts. Reverend Hale comes to Salem from Beverly, a town in which he recently cured a case of witchcraft. Because of this success, it “…never raised a doubt in his mind as to the reality of the underworld or the existence of Lucifer’s many-faced lieutenants”(33). Reverend Hale’s confidence in the existence of the Devil results in his becoming overconfident in his religious beliefs. When he first meets Reverend Parris, the minister of Salem, Hale is carrying a stack of books, which Parris says are very heavy. In response, Hale says “They must be; they are weighted with authority”(36). The books that Reverend Hale transports are weighty both literally and figuratively. Literally, the books are large and abundant with knowledge about witches and the supernatural world. Figuratively, the books are “weighted with authority”: they have the ability to condemn anyone believed to be a witch.

At the conclusion of Act I, Hale asks the group of girls about the people they saw with the devil. An assortment of responses arises: “I saw Goody Hawkins with the Devil!”, “I saw Goody Bibber with the Devil”, “I saw Goody Booth with the Devil”(48). Hale is ecstatic, yelling “Glory to God! It is broken, they are free!”(48). At this point, Hale believes that all the girls are revealing the truth. It is not until Hale dives deeper into the case that he uncovers the lies that Salem holds. As Abigail Williams winds her web of lies, Reverend Hale begins to separate himself from his core beliefs. When Abigail accuses Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft in the court, Hale finds it his duty to go question the Proctors. To look for signs of witchcraft, he makes John, a man who is in contempt of Reverend Parris’ religious practices, recite the Ten Commandments. When he fails to say all ten, Elizabeth says “delicately: Adultery, John”(67). This statement reveals to Reverend Hale that Elizabeth is a pious woman, who shows no signs of witchcraft. The obvious innocence of Elizabeth creates suspicion in Reverend Hale of what Abigail had been saying in court; in fact, Abigail’s lie about Elizabeth is the catalyst in Hale’s skepticism of the court.

Once the court begins executing the accused witches unless they confess, Hale finally fully sees the injustice and corruption in the court, and his religious beliefs deteriorate. This injustice is evident when John testifies in court to save his wife by confessing his own affair. The judges ask Elizabeth if John had ever had an affair and she answers in a way designed to save her husband. When the judges hear this lie told by Elizabeth, they sentence her to death. Hale steps in and says, “I may shut my conscience to it no more–private vengeance is working through this testimony!”(114). Any outstanding connection to the court is broken at the end of Act III, when Hale says. “I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!”(120). Later on in Act IV, Hale feels guilty. “There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!”(131). He grows farther apart from his religious morals when he begins telling the accused to lie in order to save themselves from execution.

With great determination, Hale separates himself from the Salem theocracy after finally discovering its true injustice. During the play, Reverend Hale evolves from a strict minister to a man deeply at odds with the proceedings in Salem. Hale feels that it is his fault that so many people have died under his watch–a feeling which leads him to where he is at the end of Miller’s script. Such regrets are common in classic drama: in Antigone by Sophocles, King Creon refuses to bury Antigone’s brother, a war hero, due to his strict enforcement of unfair laws. His hubris results in the death of his wife as well as his removal from his position of King. If Hale had been so ignorant as to go without uncovering the injustices of the court, and had more closely resembled Creon in Antigone, many more people could have died. As Miller indicates, it is important that people with power do what is right and just, as they are able to influence the masses.

Contemporary Events Leading to The Crucible

When The Crucible opened on January 22, 1953, audiences greeted it with lukewarm applause. Critics did what they do best by berating the new play. What is now arguably the most influential allegorical play on the subject of Communism written during the Cold War era, did simply horribly during its first production run. Broadway audiences took the play as a history lesson, while critics were hesitant to promote a play hailing the hunt for Communists as downright incredulous. Yet less than one year later, with the House of Un-American Activities Committee’s trials in full swing, and with Hollywood in turmoil, an entirely new production of The Crucible swept the nation and became an instant hit (Miller, Why I Wrote) .Today, some 40 years later, The Crucible is known internationally, performed in dozens of countries, and is a symbol for a myriad of political and social ideas. Based on the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts, The Crucible is open to different interpretations. However, to truly understand the original underlying message that Miller attempted to create, one must look to the reasons behind his writing of this play and examine how Miller embodies his ideas within the play itself. Surprisingly, Miller’s original inspiration to scribe a play referencing the Salem witch trials came not from the prosecution of supposed Communists in the courts of illegal proceedings, but rather in the days of his college education at the University of Michigan, after reading a thousand-page study on the subject of the Salem witch trials. This study was written in 1867 by Charles W. Upham, who was the mayor of Salem when he wrote the study (Miller, Why I Wrote). In fact, someone without extensive prior knowledge of the Salem witch trials might be led to believe that Miller’s version of events is fairly accurate in a historical sense. Without prior knowledge of Miller’s motivation in relation to the Communist witch-hunts during his time, one might even believe that The Crucible is actually a historical play offering an accurate rendition of the Salem witch trials, with the sole purpose of entertainment through education. To be certain, The Crucible does indeed offer a fairly accurate overview of the Salem witch trials. The setting, the names of characters, and the general events of the Salem witch trials can all be directly compared with a history book pertaining to the era. Miller himself claimed that he did not approach the subject of witchcraft from purely social or political reasons (Miller, Why I Wrote). Yet, upon careful examination, the historical aspect of the play is revealed as extraordinarily flawed. Major characters, exaggerations, and changes to the social standards were dropped, changed, or brought to life (Burns). Although these changes might not be apparent to most readers, Miller’s purpose in altering these events must be examined. For the Broadway audiences of Miller’s day, The Crucible used history to emphasize, to enlighten, and most of all, to criticize. Today, however, most who read Miller’s The Crucible read it for its artistic value. As a “classic” modern American play, The Crucible is now analyzed for its ability to emphasize, enlighten, and criticize, but what it criticizes has become more and more questionable with the passing of years. Rather than see The Crucible as a badly produced history lesson (as did the original audiences of the first production), one now must actually go through a history lesson to understand what exactly went on behind the witch burnings and false accusations. To do so, one must examine the story behind Miller and the history behind him, as well. The transition from World War II to the Cold War was a time of great tension. The United States had grudgingly agreed to collaborate with a decidedly Communist Russia for the sake of winning the war, and signed away control of Eastern Europe in the Treaty of Yalta. This was when the United States was clearly a superior nation whether through propaganda or through statistics. Five years later, however, the tables had turned. What was once a strong Communist Russia had suddenly splintered into a number of different factions that were gaining political strength throughout the world. This, coupled with the clear and concise message of world domination sent by Communist groups, sent the United States into an uproar. The Berlin Airdrop blatantly proved that Soviet Russia was out to sabotage the efforts of Democracy. Furthermore, the Korean War proved that the spread of Communism was a very possible scenario. What tripped the wire for the American public, however, was McCarthy’s speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, which incited the infamous period of McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare. McCarthyism was originally shunned in the United States. Senator McCarthy’s claim of having a list of 205 covert Communists in the government was quickly withdrawn, and the fact that the list was faulty information was soon publicly known. Yet, slowly, he gained power. His uncovering of the few true agents that he had stumbled upon gave him the power to publically scrutinize nearly any official he wished to put under the eye of The House of Un-American Activities Committee, ensuring that the person in question would lose power and stature. The persecution of real Communist agents elsewhere, such as the extremely publicized and extraordinarily disturbing case of the Rosenbergs, gave even more power to McCarthy and those who supported him (Broudin). Individuals declared to be Communists were blacklisted from working ever again. Entertainers in Hollywood, writers, songwriters, and directors were tried in court if it was determined that they had ever expressed an opinion that ran contrary to the government’s. As Miller noted, “[t]he Red hunt, led by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and by McCarthy, was becoming the dominating fixation of the American psyche” (Miller, Why I Wrote). As the number of common Americans being blacklisted grew, the public become more and more nervous. Meanwhile, authors, playwrights, and others in the arts who were prosecuted sought to speak out against McCarthy’s often illegal practices in subtle ways. “The more I read into the Salem panic, the more it touched off corresponding images of common experiences in the fifties: the old friend of a blacklisted person crossing the street to avoid being seen talking to him; the overnight conversions of former leftists into born-again patriots” (Miller, Why I Wrote). It comes as no surprise that when Miller wrote The Crucible it came as “an act of desperation” (Miller, Why I Wrote). While seemingly a simple historical event brought to the stage due to its sheer ability to be dramatic, Miller laces The Crucible with excessive dry humor, sarcasm, and a good dose of sheer idiosyncrasy – along with quite a few direct references to Communism and the “present day.” Beginning with the Overture, Miller mentions that “[n]o one can really know what [the Salemites’] lives were like. They had no novelists” (Miller, The Crucible). Through this statement, Miller conveys that one, The Crucible is not necessarily accurate, and two, that novelists write history. Simply put, Miller is stating that he is writing of history in the making. Naturally, not many contemporary events fit the category of witch-hunts. In fact, in Reverend Hales’s prolonged introduction – which has little to do with Hale himself – goes into detail about an analogy between Communists and Capitalists, and the Church and the Devil’s will. Along with using a very conspicuous double entendre with the phrase “Red hell,” Miller mentions that “Sex, sin, and the Devil were early linked, [there still] are today” (Miller, The Crucible). He then goes on to compare the Devil to Communist Russians, effectively insinuating that everything remotely bad in his society was considered to be affiliated with the Communists. Throughout the book, we see characters such as Putnam take advantage of the situation for their own gain, even though they realize the witch trials are unjust, just as the “far right[s were] licking up all the cream” from the Communist trials (Miller, Why I Wrote). The parallels between The Crucible and the real world are undeniable. Four years after The Crucible was first put into production on the Broadway stages, the inevitable happened. Miller was put on trial in the courts of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, and, due to his unwillingness to name Communists, was found guilty for contempt of Congress. This was, of course, repealed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1958 (Broudin). By this time, the McCarthyistic methods of rooting out Communists and the second Red Scare were coming to an end. However, even though the Red Scare and Communist “witch hunts” were over, The Crucible remained a hit among the international community. The Chinese started production in retaliation with the frenzy brought on by the Cultural Revolution, and even all these years later, with the revolutions and social changes around the world stabilizing, The Crucible remains a significant play, and the reason is simple. While the themes behind The Crucible are universal, the contemporary events of his day (the Red Scare, McCarthyism, etc.) led Miller to realize that the hysteria and mob mentality of the Communist trials in his time were not only a direct threat to the average American citizen’s rights, but to the minds of man, and to man’s ability to chose his own actions without fear of retaliation or guilt by association. Unfortunately, such events are bound to happen again, given the selfish nature of humanity and man’s need to further his or her own agenda. Indeed, one must take Miller’s words to heart lest such atrocities happen again, and the burden lies on the shoulders of every man and woman, for it is our responsibility to speak out for what is right, not for what is most beneficial to our own selfish needs. CitationBroudin, Jean-Christophe. “Why did Arthur Miller write The Crucible?.” 29 Mar 1999. 6 Oct 2006 .Burns, Margo. “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Fact and Fiction.” 17th Century Colonial England: With Special Emphasis on the Effex County Witch-Hunt of 1692. 23 Oct 2003. 6 Oct 2006 .Miller, Arthur. “Why I Wrote “The Crucible”.” The New Yorker. 21 Oct 1996 158-164. 06 Oct 2006 .Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Penguin Plays* – Viking Compass Edition. NYC: Penguin Group, 1953.

The Crucible as an Allegory

In his classic drama The Crucible, Arthur Miller chronicles the horror of the Salem witch trials, an embarrassing episode of colonial America’s history. At first reading, one might only view Miller’s work as a vivid account of the tragedy of theocracy in America’s late seventeenth century. However, with an understanding of the period in which Miller penned his work, one can easily view the witch trials of The Crucible as an authentic allegory of the “Red Scare” of the 1950s in America by drawing parallels in settings, characters, and the pervasive paranoia of both societies.To begin with, although centuries apart, the two periods have several dramatic similarities in regards to setting. Seventeenth century colonial America was a mysterious, quite often frightening destination for those who had risked the perils of a voyage from England to make a life for themselves to a New World. For these Puritan settlers of The Crucible, their new home of Salem touches “the edge of the wilderness” and appears “[…] dark and threatening, over their shoulders night and day, for out of it Indian tribes marauded from time to time” (Miller 5). In comparison to these colonial emigrants in search of a land where they could enjoy a life free of persecution are the many European emigrants who flooded American soil in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These “modern day” emigrants, like their colonial counterparts, arrived on a new continent, one quite alien from the European countries that many of them had fled. Certainly, Miller had not only the obvious comparison of setting but also the distinct similarities of characters in mind when he structured his allegory.Furthering the argument to support The Crucible as an allegory is the uncanny resemblance between the antagonists and protagonists from Miller’s work and the real life villains and heroes of the “Red Scare. Obviously, Judge Hathorne and Deputy Governor Danforth’s unyielding authority in the Salem witch trials is reminiscent of all who held position of power on the Committee for Un-American Activities. Just as twentieth century Senator Joseph McCarthy and his cronies believed that any semblance of Communism was a threat to America’s freedom, Danforth fears that “there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!” and that this plot must be eradicated (Miller 98). In addition to these narrow-minded antagonists from both periods are the “free thinkers,” who choose not to implicate any of their contemporaries in these “witch hunts.” Certainly the outspoken John Proctor who “speak[s] [his] own sins” but will not “judge another” because he “has no tongue for it,” is symbolic of Arthur Miller himself as well as those of the artistic community who refused to implicate their friends as “reds” when the paranoia over communist infiltrators continued to mount (Miller 141).Finally and most importantly, it is this paranoia, common to both stories, that offers the strongest argument for the fact that Miller intends his work as an allegory. Post World War America was still recovering from the evils of Hitler when the threat of Communism began to seep into American society. Sadly, Senator McCarthy, with the zealous belief that the slightest hint of communism would rob America of its freedoms, became so fanatical that he and his committee succeeded in frightening most American citizens. Just as McCarthy compiled his “black list” of artists, who had done absolutely nothing un-American, Reverend Hale of Miller’s work feeds the colonists hysteria with his pronouncement that “[…] the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points” (Miller 71). Ironically, in both cases, the very leaders who set out to protect the beliefs and rights of their people instead violated those rights to the extreme by feeding the hysteria with their paranoid attitudes.Arthur Miller’s play certainly depicts a tragic time in American history while offering the audience a vivid account of the misguided notions of a theocracy. However, there is no doubt that Miller’s ulterior motive in writing this account was to have it serve as an allegory for the traumatic “witch hunts” of the 1950s. Through his obvious parallels in both characters and setting as well as the treatment of the paranoia from both periods, Arthur Miller has created a masterful allegory in his play The Crucible.

The Stream of Conscience in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

In Arthur Miller’s powerful stage play The Crucible, written in 1953 as a metaphor for the McCarthy hearings on communism in America, the idea of conscience is greatly emphasized in many of the main characters. Miller himself once said that The Crucible focuses on “the conflict between man’s raw deeds and whether conscience is in fact an organic part of the human being or merely an adjunct of the state or mores of the time” (Bloom 146).In this play, conscience appears to be based on Christian concepts, especially the ideas of morality, the confession of one’s sins and the guilt and penance for these sins. At the beginning of the play, conscience, as an issue of morality, is defined very clearly, for Reverend Parris, “gullible, uncaring, and villainous who cares more about his reputation than truth” (Paton 67), states “a minister is the Lord’s man in the parish. . . not to be so lightly crossed and contradicted” (Act 1, Scene 1). Thus, this establishes that theologically, a minister is the ultimate decider of morality in the parish of Salem, Massachusetts, where all of the action of The Crucible takes place. The church, in such a theocratic community, defines conscience; right and wrong is decided by this authority in conjunction with specific religious doctrines.As a supportive note, Michelle Pearson tells us that “For higher purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combination of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together and prevent any kind of disunity. . . grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition” (184), which evidently shows that the time came during the Salem witch trials when the repression of order was heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized.With Salem being a place where the conscience of the people was strictly governed by this theocracy, the social atmosphere of the parish was truly repressive. But at the start of The Crucible, it is obvious that the people had already begun to feel the strains of this repression. Abigail Williams, a very beautiful, orphaned girl who lives with her uncle, the Reverend Parris, says to John Proctor, a farmer who serves as “a prime example of a sinner who is able to accept and confess of his sins in order to do good” (Pearson 192), “I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women” (Act 1, Scene 2). Like so many others in Salem, Abigail is quite aware of the hypocrisy arising from the strict repression of theocracy, and has begun to rebel against it. When the girls dance naked in the woods and cast spells, an act strictly forbidden by theocratic law, Abigail immediately uses this as a means to “work herself around the conscience of the church and all its restrictions and establish her own idea of what is right and what is wrong” (Decter 204). But Abigail is not the only character in The Crucible that is guilty of using the witch hunt as a means to foster individual interests, for Putnam uses the trials as a way to obtain land, thus manipulating the usual restrictive mores of Salem to create his own conception of conscience.With all this, a new conscience has evolved in The Crucible, stemming from the trials in which “the societal balance was turned towards greater individual freedom” (Paton 146). Ideally, the community of Salem has turned from a strict, repressive conscience to one where personal gain and “common vengeance writes the laws” (Bloom 170). The church has lost its mighty power and as Mr. Hale so eloquently points out “The crazy children” are now “jangling the keys of the kingdom.”As Arthur Miller declares, the character of John Proctor was greatly reassuring, for as a sinner “he might overturn his paralyzing personal guilt and become the most forthright voice against the madness around him” and demonstrate that “a clear moral outcry could still spring even from an ambiguously unblemished soul” (160). This “personal guilt” is associated with Proctor’s affair with Abigail Williams which greatly affects his own conscience, for he is “a sinner, not only against the moral fashion but also his own inner vision of decent conduct” (Decter 168) as manifested in the theology of Salem. Proctor’s conscience troubles him throughout the play and rises in his relationships with other characters, for he conceives of himself as a sinner, due to his deeds associated with his adultery.But the courts in Salem are intent on ridding the parish of evil by inflicting its morality upon the citizens. As Judge Danforth exclaims, “No uncorrupted man may fear this court” (Act 3, Scene 2), which emphasizes the fact that the court is the epitome of morality in Salem. And it is here that the question of whether conscience is organic to the human being as posed by Miller comes to the forefront, for the courts exist, in part, to provide conscience and morality, based on the assumption that conscience is not part of man but ordained by God and that the laws of the church are required to provide this conscience in order to distinguish between good and evil for the mindless human being.Therefore, the courts require that all those accused and found guilty of practicing witchcraft must confess or be hung at the gallows. With this, conscience has been handed over to the state which takes the place of God and decides on matters of right and wrong. As an act of compliance, confession establishes the courts and those who maintain them as the ultimate symbols of authority and power on earth. As a result, when conscience is handed over to the state, repression occurs and sometimes leads to personal and societal tragedies.The Salem witch trials, as conceived by Paton, thus became “an opportunity for everyone to publicly express their guilt or sins under the cover of accusations against the victims” (256). In support of this, Arthur Miller states “the people of Salem had no ritual for the washing away of sin” (162); confession, then, in the case of the courts, serves the purpose of doing away with guilt while under the umbrella of hypocrisy. John Proctor, the “point of moral reference against which all the action in The Crucible is gauged” (Pearson 210), faces his own morality when he confesses his adulterous affair to his wife Elizabeth. At first, Proctor believes it is Elizabeth who is judging him, and his confession places her in a state of power, replacing God and the courts as the figures of morality and conscience which has been handed over to her.Perhaps this is the reason why Proctor later refuses, along with Rebecca Nurse, the old, devoted lady, kind, strong-willed and wise, to falsely admit being in league with the Devil. Yet both of these characters understand that their conscience will never allow them to live a normal life, and Proctor ends up serving his own conscience rather than that of the courts and pays the ultimate price, being death. In conclusion, Arthur Miller established that conscience is indeed an organic part of the human being, and that for all intents and purposes, the organic conscience is the truest form as compared to the courts and the church, repressive, superficial and full of hypocrisy.SOURCES CITEDBloom, Harold. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.Decter, Midge. “The Witches of Arthur Miller.” Commentary. Vol. 103 no. 3 (1997): 54-56.Miller, Arthur. “Why I Wrote The Crucible: An Artist’s Answer to Politics. New Yorker. October 21 & 25, 1953: 158-64.Paton, Alan and Denis M. Calandra. Notes on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.Pearson, Michelle. “John Proctor and the Crucible of Individuation in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Studies in American Drama. Vol. 6 no. 1 (1991): 15-27.

Representation of gender in The Crucible and Macbeth

Drama is the performance of a narrative by actors on stage, and differs from prose fiction in that it is interpreted and presented by others rather than the individual viewer. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is a drama that illustrates a theocratic society corrupted by expectations and pressure to maintain a respectable reputation. These ideas are highlighted in the text through the use of dramatic conventions such as dialogue, stage directions, body language and lighting. Another play: Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare, conveys a similar message of the manipulation and exploitation that is experienced by mankind. This manifests itself through the use of character development and relationships as well as language and symbolism. Both of these texts make comment on what it is to be a man or a woman, and how each gender is expected to conform in order to meet society’s expectations. However they do differ in the way they communicate this message to their audience.

David Gilmore explains manhood as “a precarious or artificial state that boys must win against powerful odds.” It is a concept that has a significant impact on the minds of men, who are constantly faced with the expectation of being a strong and powerful figure. The notion of masculinity has a major impact in The Crucible because it affects the decision-making and overall personalities of some of the characters, who struggle to come to terms with what it is to be a man. One character whose personality is moulded by this concept is Danforth: a harsh judge whose intentions are to convict as many people as possible. The reasons behind his actions are simple; he wishes to remain respected and superior as a judge and as a person. The more dominant and powerful a person can appear, the more masculine society tells them they are. Danforth makes many irrational decisions to get people to see that he will not be taken lightly nor will he step down from his pedestal, he demonstrates this by ignoring the truths presented to him. In the closing scene of the play he can be seen begging Proctor to confess saying things like, “You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope.” The tone of his voice is angry and despairing, indicating how desperate he is to have this confession in his hand so he may maintain his reputation. He also ignores Proctors pleas due to the fear of being proven wrong because it would cause him to show signs of “weakness,” making him seem less powerful. John Proctor is another character in Miller’s play whose actions are navigated by his overwhelming need to protect his reputation and thus his masculinity. This is evident in the final Act when he yells, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!” His name is a representation of everything he has gained in life, his family, his land and his reputation. This explains the immense emotion present in his body language and dialogue as he feels that by signing his name to lie he is throwing away his dignity and forgoing his masculinity.

William Shakespeare did not have much faith in traditional gender roles, and this is evident through his constant subversion of these roles in the submission of men. In a similar way to Arthur Miller he illustrates his feelings that much was amiss in society, with the pressure of gender conformation and stereotypes playing heavily on peoples actions. His results are striking in the creation of a cast who each represent something unique about humanity. Two of his male characters, in Macbeth and Macduff, are crucial to exploring the notion of what it is to be a man. Macbeth knows what he must do, that is kill Duncan, but he needs something more to spur him on because as Lady Macbeth says he is “too full o’th’milk of human kindness.” This implies that he is too full of womanly qualities, through the metaphor of carrying milk like a mother would. She sees him as too feminine which leads her to compensate for him by saying things such as, “unsex me here,” and “come to my woman’s breast and take my milk for gall.” As the gender roles begin to subvert Shakespeare’s vision of the unnatural masculine figure becomes clear. Macbeth represents a figure struggling with the idea of being a man, and due to external influences is conflicted as to whether feeling emotions and upholding morals is acceptable for a man of his status. Another character who presents an aspect of what is to be a man is Macduff, who at a pivotal moment of the play, demonstrates tremendous courage, compassion and self-assuredness as he is told to take the news of his families murder “like a man.” To which he retorts, “I shall do so/But I must also feel it as a man.” This line serves as an accusation of the Macbeth’s for believing that sensitivity is unbecoming of a man. In the final Act of the play it is shown that Macduff is the person that is finally able to kill Macbeth, demonstrating that he is in fact the stronger one of the two men. Macduff may be Shakespeare’s ideal vision of a man, or at least, one ideal vision of a man; but there is not just one ideal, because, as the play indicates, it is more important for a person to know themselves than try to live up to an ideal set forth by anyone else.

The notion of feminism is a growing movement with the intention to abolish any inequalities that women may face in comparison to men. Although Macbeth does explore the stereotypical role of women through his characters of Lady Macduff, he also illustrates an attempt at breaking free from any lingering ideas of femininity in the form of Lady Macbeth. Perhaps the greatest way of showing this is in the line, “I have given suck and know how tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me: I would while it was smiling…have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed he brains out.” This demonstrates how removed Lady Macbeth is from her femininity, which she clearly believes was limiting her ability to commit any act of horror or to achieve what she truly wants. It is her fiery desire to “unsex” herself that reveals some of the problems with the traditional female identity; her words and actions are the result of her frustrations with her perceived natural limits. Her estranged ability to manipulate her male counterpart of Macbeth, through a feminist lens, challenges the notion of a patriarchal society of which she lives in, indicating that her character was created to challenge rather than endorse norms. In comparison the character of Lady Macduff is one that does conform to the standards of society, as she fills the role of a marginalized and subordinate female. She refers to herself as “his wife,” which indicates that she views herself as no more than a mans property and she continues to say “his babes, his mansion, and his titles,” demonstrating that nothing is her own. These characters show two contrasting representations of the female form and perhaps reflect the turmoil that was occurring in society with women realizing their strengths and beginning to manipulate their oppressors. From the very beginning of the play Shakespeare disrupts the notions of femininity with the physical description of the witches portraying them as masculine, withered and wild that reflects in their hunched body language and dark attire. This is exaggerated with Banquo going as far as to say, “You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so.” This allows readers to see the confusion, which is a major theme in Macbeth, that is created because of Shakespeare’s ability to question norms.

In a similar way Arthur Miller, in The Crucible, creates strong female characters such as Abigail Williams, who disrupt the natural order, and to add a basis for comparison he has more stereotypical characters such as Elizabeth Proctor and Mary Warren. These latter females are forced to portray a delicate, victimized role due to the masculine power that is oppressing them, making it so that they cannot gain the full respect that they deserve. One way that these women are held back is the great pressure placed on them to meet the expectation of others and to not draw unwanted attention, this is demonstrated when Abigail proclaims, “My name is good in the village! I will not have it say my name is soiled!” Additionally the oppression they experience, from men, contributes to their submission, for example when John Proctor yells at Mary Warren, his female slave, “How do you go to Salem when I forbid it? …I’ll whip you if you dare leave this house again.” This demonstrates the lack of political power and general control women had over their own lives in a time where being able to speak out was so crucial. However the character of Abigail is able to successfully manipulate many of the characters, especially men, because of her beauty and sexuality that prevents them from seeing all of her lies and deceit: “Where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel.” Additionally her absolute dictatorship over the court, even the powerful male figure of Judge Danforth, is evident when she begins to accuse women of witchcraft and immediately they are presumed guilty. This demonstrates that the hysteria and the witch trials reverse the gender roles – even the men in society such as Hale and Proctor have no say in the accusations, it also highlights the manipulative power of women, as shown in Macbeth. In a recent adaptation of this drama, Abigail was constantly using her body language in a seductive manner in order to manipulate characters such as Proctor to do as she says. Also the use of a dimmer lighting when the two characters were alone on stage added to the idea that she was using a romantic connection in order to deceive him. Although it is also mentioned that as soon as Proctor enters, Abigail “has stood as though on tiptoe, absorbing his presence, wide-eyed,” and Mary Warren “can barely speak for embarrassment and fear.” This indicates that although Miller portrays women as manipulative and flirtatious, they are ultimately far inferior to men, which endorses what society tells us.

“I dare do all that may become a man,” says Macbeth. This signifies that he is suffering from internal conflicts, particularly the question of what it is to be a man in both his wives eyes and his own. The drama Macbeth comments on the stereotypical gender roles and the problems this can cause when people are forced to conform and struggle to accept the associated and perceived limitations. Through the contrast of characters relationships such as the Macbeth’s and Macduff’s the audience is able to identify the different forms of gender that exist within society, and are left to interpret which they see as ideal. Shakespeare has discussed the idea of feminism, through Lady Macbeth, which suggests that he may have disagreed with society’s treatment of women and indicates that he did not have much faith in traditional gender roles. His unique and questionable representation of gender has clearly been done in order to stimulate the audience. Similarly Arthur Miller, in The Crucible, is making comment on a society corrupted by expectations and pressure to maintain ones reputation. His message manifests itself in the characters of Abigail, John Proctor, and Judge Danforth as well in non-verbal elements such as body language. Although his characters tend to better represent stereotypes of the era, Miller still strays from the norm as he presents the sexuality of women as a manipulative tool. As discussed both of these dramas tell of gender; the principal source of segregation and marginalization.

True character is revealed under pressure

In both The Crucible and Year of Wonders, characters are put under pressure and in times of crisis their true character is revealed. Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible, showcases the grotesque nature of the human form and how it contorts when tempted by jealousy and deceit, Abigail Williams showcases this clearly, although much of the town is evidently swept up in the hysteria of the witch-hunt. Similarly, Geraldine Brooks’, Year of wonders, is also a depiction of the disintegration of moral character resulting from disease and crisis in a small town, specifically in characters of Josiah and Aphra Bont. They take advantage of the weak and exploit them to satisfy their own greed. Many characters in both texts appear to be morally good, especially the Puritans, however both novels show the inner corruption and judgment of the church leaders. Cracks in character are also revealed by the mass hysteria that is ridden throughout both texts. The Crucible explores the detrimental effect the notion of the devil and witchcraft can have on a town, whereas Year of Wonders deals with the death and disease that results from the plague. However a person’s true character can be shown to be moral and good when faced with pressuring situations. The character of Anna Frith shows that life or death situations can allow some to thrive off the duty of helping others. Similarly in The Crucible, John Proctor remains dignified in the madness of the witch trials.

Jealousy, greed and the temptation of a lie can often lure one into darkness, this notion is presented in both The Crucible and Year of Wonders. The lure of these dangerous emotions reveal the worst sides of several charters in the texts. Abigail Williams of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is driven by jealousy and her own carnal instincts to achieve what is best for her at all times. Abigail is a ‘wild thing’ who ‘may say wild things’ and is an unpredictable mark against the puritan ethos of the conventional Salem society. Miller describes her as having an ‘endless capacity for dissembling’, she is devious and capitalizes off the mass hysteria ignited by the witch trials. Abigail makes a habit of taking a pressuring situation and using it to her advantage often to the detriment of others. She does this in Act One, by blaming Tituba of associating with the devil and again in Act Three, when Mary tries to expose her. Similarly, in Year of Wonders Josiah Bont utilizes crisis and hysteria to his own advantage, by capitalizing off the weak and burying their dead. Josiah Bont abuses his position of power by taking advantage of ‘those too ill or weak to bury their dead’. He demands a high fee for this and also loots the possessions of the dead and the mourning, ‘he would take whatever in the house or field had the most value’. However the true testament to the extent of his greed was when ‘He finally committed an act so vile’ by burying a man alive. Josiah’s wife, Aphra Bont, is stricken with grief at Josiah’s passing and falls victim to insanity. Unable to cope with the pressure and crisis she has been left with, Aphra adds to the hysteria by lying and deceiving. Like her late-husband, she uses the plague to exploit her neighbors by posing as the ghost of Anys Gowdie, who was accused of being a witch. Aphra sells the plague stricken townspeople phony remedies that only inflict more pain and suffering. Thus, both The Crucible and Year of Wonders demonstrate the self-centered nature of several characters and how this is heightened by pressure in a crisis.

Both texts are set in similar time period of the 16th century, thus similar societal norms and values are shared by the people of Salem and Eyam. The vast majority of characters in both novels believe in the devil just as passionately as they believe in God. In The Crucible authority is awarded to those of great religious stature. The puritan leaders are given full control of legal conviction and the community has doubtless faith in their decisions, thus in Salem, ‘There is either obedience or the church will burn like hell is burning!’. The people of Salem blur the lines between faith and the law, and go to great lengths to be rid of the devil. Puritan characters such as Reverend Parris begin with good intentions influenced by their faith to cleanse the town of the devil. However the actions they take in the madness are corrupt. Many cling to these ideal as a sense of justification, Danforth defends the standing of the court even when he suspects that the court is wrong, he insists that ‘[he] cannot pardon these when twelve are already hanged for the dame crime. It is not just’. The people of Eyam in the Year of Wonders place a similar amount of authority on the church. Although the puritans no longer rule, their influence still persists, ‘the puritans who had ministered us here had held that all actions and thoughts could be only one of two natures: godly and right, or satanic and evil’. In both texts characters are blinded by the influence of religion and certainty of its righteousness, and often become maniacal in their methods to utilize religion to mend their issues. This is seen in both witch-trials in The Crucible and Year of Wonders. Although puritans are thought of as the moral compasses of a town, when crisis erupts both texts showcase the hysterical nature of characters and their grip on religion as a justifiable reason for madness.

In The Crucible and Year of Wonders, hysteria and fear dominate the villages of Salem and Eyam. Characters in The Crucible turn their own neighbors out of fear that the devil might be conspiring alongside them. The mass hysteria dislodges all rational logic, and leads the characters to blame witchcraft for situations they cannot understand. This blurriness between what is real and what is a product of hysteria presents the witch-hunt as ‘a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins’ thus ‘long-held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken’. Hysteria is shown to reveal the selfish nature of character such as Abigail in The Crucible, as she uses the townspeople’s fear of witch-craft to turn them against goody proctor. The influence of hysteria and fear is also apparent in Year of Wonders, particularly in the character of Aphra Bont. Fuelled by grief and trauma, Aphra engages in crazed behavior after the death of her husband Josiah Bont. She commits horrific crimes, however it is the actions taken by her neighbors as a result of her offences that shows the full extent of the mass hysteria. Fears grips other minor characters as well, John Gordon’s self-flagellation also represents the way hysteria can take a hold of people and cause madness. Both The Crucible and Year of Wonders showcase the influence of hysteria and fear on crisis, and how it dominates the community, allowing for the manifestation of human fear and its effect on a person.

Although crisis and pressure predominately reveals the worst in most characters in The Crucible and Year of Wonders, certain characters harness the responsibility and show themselves to be truly moral. In The Crucible, John Proctor was ‘respected and even feared in Salem’, he is a good and godly man who deeply regrets his sins, including his adultery. Proctor acts valiantly and stays in court to ‘face the demons’. Although Proctor is skeptical about the witchcraft movement in refuses to name others who may have been ‘compacting with the devil’ even though it meant sacrificing his survival. Proctor ultimately decides that he must stand by his own dignity and integrity, because he believes himself ‘not worth the dust on the feet of those that hang! … I have given you my soul; leave me my name!’. Thus, Proctor sacrifices his life for his legacy and preservation of a good name. In year of wonders, Anna Frith is the most morally sound character through her devotion to tending the sick and finding a cure for the plague, whilst battling her own grief. Since her husband’s death, ‘[she’s] tended so many bodies, people [she] loved and people [she] barely knew’, Anna puts aside her own pain and suffering to help the community in crisis. Both John Proctor and Anna Frith reveal themselves to be truly good and moral in their reactions to the pressure and crisis.

Crisis grips the two towns of Salem and Eyam, and puts pressure on the characters of both The Crucible and Year of Wonders. Abigail Williams of The Crucible is shown to be truly ugly and twisted by self-desire within. Likewise, in Year of Wonders Josiah and Aphra Bont turn to greed and lying to take advantage of the plague ridden town. The 16th century worldview is deeply saturated with religious and puritan ideology. This reliance on religion often blinds characters and can lead to superstition and mass hysteria, all of which test characters and reveal their inner corruption. In The Crucible, ‘the witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic’, similarly in Year of Wonders the plague had an alike debilitating effect as the characters were ‘rendered in the fiery furnace of this disease’. In both texts the true character of those put under pressure during a crisis is tested and more often than not the results are unflattering. However the pressure can also allow some characters to thrive in a deathly situation.

Compare the ways in which The Crucible and Year of Wonders explore the conflict between appearance and reality.

Arthur Miller’s allegorical play, The Crucible, illustrates the parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and the HUAC communist crisis, highlighting the injustice of McCarthyism. Alternatively, Geraldine Brooks intertextually takes a cue from the John Dryden poem which inspired its title, Year of Wonders charts its protagonist’s growth as she endures a litany of horrors. The villages of Salem and Eyam are portrayed as similarly insular societies that suffer devastating upheaval. Whilst these crises differ in character, there are similarities in terms of the profound social distress induced, and the long-term consequences for those concerned. These crises create a conflict between appearance and reality, with individuals being blinded by false truths.

In the devout communities of Salem and Eyam, there is a willingness to look for metaphysical, rather than rational, explanations. When confronted with situations they don’t understand, they fall back on superstition. In The Crucible, Mrs Putnam cannot rationalize the loss of seven infant children, with each “wither(ing) in (her) arms the very night of their birth”. She can’t fathom their deaths and doesn’t believe that God could’ve forsaken her like that. Thus, when the witchcraft hysteria emerged it gave her an opportunity to lay blame on something other than her own body, claiming “they were murdered”. In these societies, elderly women can easily be perceived as witches, especially elderly midwives. Birthing “seven babies unbaptized in the earth” with Rebecca Nurse as her midwife lead her to believe that Nurse precipitated their deaths with witchcraft. Her intransigence towards the demise of her babies conveys Millers view that individuals in these deeply pious societies much rather blame a satanic power than themselves. Similarly, in Year of Wonders the first explanation for the plague is witchcraft. To Eyam “there are two natures: Godly and right or satanic and evil”, thus the plague couldn’t have been “a thing of nature”. Living on the fringe of convention as they do, the Gowdies were first accused. Herbs represent the world outside of societal constraints, thus herbalists like the Gowdies were obvious scapegoats. With their executions, the village is profoundly compromised in both a physical and moral sense, thus Brooks suggests that the greatest threat to a community can come from within, the threat being the villagers desire to blame a dark power rather than accepting it as “a thing of nature”.

In these homogeneous communities, ignorance provokes fear, making it hard to identify what’s real. Those who are malicious can manipulate this fear to create panic for their own gain. In The Crucible, Abigail manipulates people’s fear of witches with the crying-out. Her false accusations hold substantial weight, “jangling the keys of the kingdom” with her power. Few can see the reality that the girls are just “marvellous pretenders” as they allow fear to dictate their responses. Their fear in witches, their fear in the court and especially their fear of being accused, are mighty factors allowing Abigail to obtain her powerful status, with the court “pulling Heaven down and raising up a whore (Abigail)”. With this Miller suggests that God’s want isn’t being properly interpreted, thus weakening his power, and raising Abigail up towards his level. The irony in this is though Abigail is viewed as a “saint” whilst in reality she is a precocious liar, and true saints such as Rebecca Nurse are condemned as witches. Furthering this conflict, a poppet in Salem is viewed as a tool for witchcraft, while realistically it’s just a doll which in any other society would represent childhood innocence. This displays the uneasiness of the community and how their fear blurs the line between appearance and reality. Similarly, in Year of Wonders, Aphra Bont deceives Eyam by disguising herself as Anys Gowdie’s “ghost” and selling charms to vulnerable villagers, exploiting their fear and desperation. Before the plague, all of them would have instantly rejected this blasphemous offering, however, their fear of death causes clear thoughts and vision to become untenable. Furthermore, they had executed the Gowdies for witchcraft, but they end up resorting to dark magic. With this, Brook displays how fear can easily change how someone thinks, as depicted by the villager’s hypocrisy.

With the barrier between appearance and reality blurring, the texts show the importance of moderate, rational voices in promoting the truth. Miller illustrates the effect of the absence of such voices, especially in positions of power. In Salem, the pervasive belief that witches represent a legitimate threat justifies the state’s repressive approach. The voices claiming that the witch accusations are just acts of “vengeance” are ignored. John Proctor is “respected and feared in Salem”, yet his voice is disregarded. Similarly, Reverend Hale attempts to reason with the court are ineffective as the appearance of witchcraft and the supernatural is viewed as more compelling. Thus, Miller highlights that the conflict between appearance and reality also affects the validity of rational voices. In contrast Brooks displays the value of the presence of such voices. Michael Mompellion attempts to diffuse extremism which he views as dangerous and divisive such as self-flagellation, viewing these individuals as pitiable. This self-harming was seen as a way for people to repent for their sins, aiming to have God lift the punishment on Eyam. Mompellion understood that “despair (was) a cavern beneath (their) feet” and that most “teeter on its very brink”, with many falling into this “cavern”. He used his position as a leader to condemn these actions, thus saving many lives whilst uniting the community. Therefore, these moderate, rational voices are portrayed as vital by Brooks, as without them the community will tear itself apart as in Salem.

In both texts, the similarly insular societies of Salem and Eyam are confronted with threats that present villagers with tragedy and dislocation on an unprecedented scale. This dislocation caused the line between appearance and reality waiver, thus individuals looked for metaphysical, rather than rational answers. This ignorance promoted fear, which was manipulated by malicious people for their own gain. This required rational, powerful voices to guide people, differentiating between appearance and reality. In The Crucible, the mass hysteria prevented rational answers from being heard, whilst in Year of Wonders, the voices were strong enough to aid people in distinguishing between appearance and reality.

Sins and Ambitions

“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” – Joseph ConradThe Salem witchcraft trials illuminate a great human campaign to rid society of the wicked devil and his sinful messengers. However nobly intended, these trials create an era of fear and hysteria, generating an outlet for the evil persons of Salem to raise their reputations at the expense of the good. In effect, it becomes apparent that the accusers do not possess a power to prove another of a “Satanic alliance”, but rather branch their motivations from ambition, a theory probed by Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. Afraid of the severe penalties for secretly dancing in the forest and chanting spells, characters such as Tituba and Abigail Williams accuse others of witchcraft for their self-preservation. Capitalizing on this newly acquired power, Abby’s self-preservation transforms into a strong desire to do harm unto others and quench her great lust for power. Moreover, other individuals such as Thomas Putnam endanger the lives of others simply to satisfy their insatiable greed and self-interest. As a result, the accusers in the witchcraft trials become the embodiment of sin, fed by their varied ambitions.Ironically enough, because Salem’s stern religious ethic controls all aspects of society and promotes safeguards against all immoralities and sins, the townspeople are somewhat provoked to test these prevailing social values. This becomes the case with a group of young girls lead by Abigail Williams and Tituba, who secretly dance “like heathen in the forest” (1 10) and “conjure upŠdeadŠspirits” (1 16), all tell-tale elements of witchery. Soon enough however, rumors spread and “the whole country’s talkin’ witchcraft”, a definite “hangin’ error” (1 19). Terrified, the girls entrap themselves in an atmosphere of hysteria and apprehension searching for the most painless means of ensuring their protection: shifting the blame onto someone else. Thus, in a climatic moment of confession led by Tituba, Abigail claims to “want to openŠ[herself]Š” and embrace “the sweet love of Jesus” as well as announce the names of those who “trafficked with the Devil” (1 50). Consequentially, by lying, the girls become perpetual sinners; nevertheless, are able to reflect the severe punishments of witchcraft from themselves and uphold their self-preservation. Coincidentally, the girls’ initial identities as the vulnerable pawns of the devil’s grand scheme rapidly transform into those of famed yet feared celebrities among the people of Salem. Taking this reality to her advantage, the opportunistic Abigail is able to expose her true malignant character by intentionally attempting to destroy the lives of others to satisfy her corrupt conscience. One such an example is her plot against Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of her former lover, John Proctor. “She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling likes about me! She is a cold, sniveling womanŠ!” (1 24). Expressing her grievances that stem from jealousy and extreme hatred, Abigail substantiates her need for revenge. Thus, Abigail testifies to the court that it was Elizabeth’s “familiar spiritŠthatŠstuckŠa needleŠtwo inches into the flesh of her [Abigail’s] belly” (2 79). Because of the lack of any material evidence to disprove this claim, Elizabeth is automatically accused of witchcraft and taken away. Moreover, Abby’s motivation for malevolence broadens even more to satisfy her growing hunger for control and authority and reassure herself of her above-the-law status. While in court, Abigail threatens, “Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it!” (3 113) In this situation, Abigail declares herself as even a menace to a powerful and esteemed Judge, declaring her true prevailing authority even over a high-ranking official. Therefore, by developing and defining her true motivation for evil as doing harm to others as well as satisfying her interminable desire for power, Abigail is able to divulge the wide capacity of her truly wicked character. Correspondingly, other people in the town of Salem also recognize the witch trials as an outlet to attain their varied desires and ambitions. Thomas Putnam, a wealthy farmer obsessed with his riches, uses and instigates the executions of others to profit economically. As a result, he is able to allow his incalculable greed and self-interest champion his morality and ethics. Putnam is said to have “coldly promptedŠ[his]Šdaughter to cry witchery upon George Jacobs” for “If Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit up his propertyŠAnd there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for their land!” (3 101). Of course, although Putnam cautiously manages to deny the accusation, it is quite true that nothing more than his yearn for more land stimulates the execution of the innocent George Jacobs. Thus, as a slave to the pleasures of the materialistic world, Thomas Putnam is coldly able to condemn others of an undeserving execution because of his prevailing greed and self-interest, and in doing so, becomes the ultimate sinner.The many accusers in the witchcraft trials succumb to the definition of sin itself, corruptly powered by their different ambitions. Thomas Putnam is hastily able to endanger the lives of others in order to satisfy his self-interest and his perpetual hunger for more, undermining any moral or ethical conduct he might uphold. The vile and opportunistic Abigail is able to unveil herself as a true dark, spiteful, and malicious individual that uses the witchcraft trials as an opportunity to ruin the lives of others as well as quench her undying lust for power. In a state of great fear and desperation, the naïve Tituba and Abigail are able to deflect the penalties of witchcraft off themselves and maintain their state of self-preservation. In conclusion, while the trials of life may deem some sinners champions, the trials of the eternal life have yet to come.