Societal Pressure In The Crucible By Arthur Miller
In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, there are many “moments” where the author uses literary devices to convey how a few characters rebel against and conform to authority figures and peers and the values and expectations of Puritan society as a whole. Ultimately, Arthur Miller is saying that societal pressure can make you believe very wild things; societal pressure also can make people do some crazy things that they wouldn’t normally do without the pressure being applied.
One example of one of these “moments” occurring is when Rev. Hale has to sign away a bunch of death warrants just solely based on false claims that have zero evidence to back them up. He says, “in all justice, sir, a claim so weighty cannot be argued by a farmer… Excellency, I have signed seventy-two death warrants: I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it… I have this morning signed away the soul of Rebecca Nurse, Your Honor. I’ll not conceal it, my hand shakes yet as with a wound!”. Rev. Hale has conformed to society’s pressure of from these claims and has signed away many death warrants even though the claims have zero evidence; He also has signed away the lives of many innocent people just because of accusations. The quote’s language supports this because it shows Rev. Hale realizing that he is wrong for crumbling under society’s pressure and letting innocent people die. Rev. Hale shows that he has good morals, but because of the societal pressure he had to turn away from his good morals and participate in the witch hunt. He also ends up signing away innocent people’s lives simply because other people decided that that’s what the accused deserved; not Rev. Hale deciding the course of action they should pursue. This is a great example that shows just how evil society’s pressure can make someone be and how it can affect someone’s decision making completely even though they know it is wrong.
Another example of one of the “moments” is when John Proctor will not give up his pride and lie on his name for the sake of keeping his own life. He is given many chances to lie on his name and say that he participated in witchcraft, but his mental strength prevails and he does not give in. He says, “I can. And there’s your first marvel that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sick them with it”. John Proctor does not break once. He does not give away his pride and just lie to keep his life. He is strong enough to say no and set an example for other citizens that are being accused as well; A great one at that. Society’s pressure tears Proctor down, but he does not crumble under it. Even though he dies from not giving into societal pressure, it makes him the better man for being willing to do such a courageous act for everyone else. The language in the quote supports this because it shows that John Proctor has thought about both options he had very thoroughly. Yet, he still decides to go through with it because he knows that it is the right decision to make. Again, this goes to show how societal pressure can just be really evil because the only way people would let him live was if he lied on his name completely and said that he participated in witchcraft. Which, he obviously had nothing to do with it and they were only executing him based simply off of accusations; and inevitably costs John Proctor his life and leaves his family without a father and husband.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller believes that societal pressure plays a heavy role in our decision making and can hindsight our judgement because it causes one to form the same outlook and opinions as others. Societal pressure is mainly a negative thing and that is portrayed in Miller’s novel by showing that no matter how good a person was or how highly trusted they were, they were still executed if they were accused of witchcraft. Also, it is shown how much of a negative connotation the pressure has to it by the people deciding as a whole that the only way to “prove your innocence” was to say that you did, in fact, participate in the acts of witches. Overall, Miller wanted to show that nothing good comes from society’s unfair pressures.
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