Subjective Truth And Abuse Of Power in The Crucible By Arthur Miller And Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell
A composer utilises representation to offer insights into the complex relationships between people and their governing political authority. The political actions that individuals or groups undertake are conducted so that by the end of their feat they have seized control of a society or a group of people. The tools that aid these political actions are subjective truth and abuse of power. Often authority figures mould the truth to suit an individual’s needs. Placing the power of one’s self over that of another’s can ensure that moral and ethical values are overlooked. This idea is represented in both Arthur Miller’s dramatic allegory “The Crucible” (1952) which explores the political and social ramifications of the McCarthy Era when the widespread fear of communism rose mid 20th cenutry and George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949), which reflects upon the rise and fall of Communism and Fascism in Europe and warning of a world run by two of three superstates. Both composers highlight how subjective truth and power can be used as tools in political actions to seize or maintain control over a society.
Miller uses the events in “The Crucible” to represent how the perceived truth of a situation can insight chaos within a society. Miller parallels the Salem witch trials to the McCarthy trials and the ‘Red Scare’ that plagued America throughout the 1950’s. His representation of the witch trials shows the dangers of political authority especially the manipulation of mass hysteria for gain. Upon the suspicion of Abigail that one of her girls “means to tell” she utilises the motif of darkness “I will come for you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you…” to ensure that the real truth of the situation does not make it’s way out. The perceived truth of Giles’s wife Martha made Giles have a “stoppage in prayer” whilst she was doing “readin’ of strange books” is seen to have been used by Reverend Hale to begin the hysteria of the witch trials as it is seen later on in the play that Martha is arrested for witchcraft and has Giles pleading “They be tellin’ lies about my wife”. Furthermore the manipulation of truth is seen at the end of act one when Abigail and her girls gain a seat of power amongst the town by lying to Hale through the Anaphora “I saw Bridget Bishop with the devil! I saw George Jacobs with the devil! I saw Goody Sibber with the devil! I saw Alice Barrow with the devil!” This is how it is seen that through the manipulation of the perceived truth of a situation can gain an individual power in a society whilst also inciting chaos.
Orwell, in “1984” analyses how the manipulation of truth in a society can mean that certain parties can seize control over the society. The party organises for the past to be changed to fit the needs of ‘Big Brother’, which is depicted in the Parties slogan “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”. This is a massive emphasise throughout the novel as the Party and ‘Big Brother’ are constantly trying to maintain control over the nation of Oceania. They rely upon the notion of “reality control” which in Newspeak is called “doublethink”. The extent of the Parties manipulation is expressed through Winston’s thoughts “If all records told the same tale- then the lie passed into history and became truth”, “Whatever was true now was true was true from everlasting to everlasting”. Furthermore, the extent of manipulation of truth is expressed through the imagery of the “memory holes”, “When one knew that any document was due for destruction… it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in”. The clear description of the “automatic action” conveys how it had been etched into the brains of Winston and his fellow workers to not worry about the documents they were destroying, even if they had an indication that their whole life was covered by a blanket made of lies provided by the party and ‘Big Brother’. Also, the extent of control that the party has created through there manipulation is seen through the imagery “Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain. ” The citizens in Oceania have no real certainty with their records of history due to the Parties control and so now the citizens are even having to question their own memories and wonder if they are the truth or not. This is how Orwell is able to describe that the manipulation of truth in a society can guarantee that an individual or party of people can gain control over that society. Miller represents the idea of power in “The Crucible” as a means to control how a society functions, and achieves this through the characterisation of Danforth. Danforth is first introduced in the play as a powerful deputy that demands results, “…near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature?” Danforth further expresses the power that he holds through the imagery “We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment”, this shows how his court will see through all lies and also links to the title of the play “The Crucible”. Miller later on asserts the authority of Danforth through his dialogue “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it” where as he speaks about the “court” he does also mean himself as an individual. However, although Danforth may appear to control the main power within the play, the true power actually resides with Abigail. Earlier on in act 2 the dialogue of Marry Warren “Four judges and the King’s deputy sat to dinner with us about an hour ago. ”, explains how Abigail and her group of girls have received so much power due to their ‘confessions’ that they are given a relatively high seat in the town. Also later on in Act 3 Abigail has become so powerful that she openly gives a threat towards Danforth “Let you beware, Mr Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it!”, she is able to threaten the deputy governor of the entire provence without negative consequences. Miller also uses imagery of “rising in her rags” in act 4 to demonstrate the effect of what happens to a person when they lose their power in a society. It is through these representations that Miller is able to convey how power is a means to control how a society functions.
Similarly, Orwell represents the idea of power in “1984” as a way of keeping society in check, and ensuring that any wisp of rebellion against the ruling factions becomes destroyed. Power is firstly showcased a the beginning of the novel through the imagery “… the posters that were plastered everywhere… BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU… while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own”, the totalitarian power that is the party seeks to exert influence over its constituents by conveying the message that it is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Furthermore the repetition of the slogan of the Party throughout the novel “War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength” further reinforces the methods used by a totalitarian power to exert its influence over its constituents. Orwell uses the “Thought Police” to also extend the power that the party holds. They move about the citizens of Oceania ensuring that the peace is kept, however if a citizen was to become subversive, the thought police would ensure that they “disappeared, always through the night… your one time existence denied… vaporised was the usual word” this allows the Party to maintain control over the Oceania society. Through these representations Orwell is able to describe how the ownership of Power allows an individual or group of people to keep a society in check.
Representation in a text allows composers to explore the complex relationship between people and politics. Arthur Miller’s dramatic allegory “The Crucible” and George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” explore how the ideas of truth and power can be used as tools for political actions that are conducted by a party or an individual to take control of a society.
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