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?
Primarily, the characters of John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams represent justice and injustice.
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 In fact, the issues of segregation had continued from the end of the Civil War to about 1965, when Jim Crow laws were repealed.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.
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 cancelled 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.
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