March 19, 2014
Throughout The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the Salem witchcraft trials accidentally become what are known as one of the most controversial events in Massachusetts history. A young woman named Abigail Williams, along with several other girls, lead accusations of witchcraft against their community in an attempt to deflect repercussions from their own witchcraft encounters. This constant accusing results in the wrongful condemnation of innocent townspeople, creating uncomfortable paranoid tension amongst the townspeople. This Puritan society changes from calm and easy going to a paranoid disarray. The three most recognizable causes that contribute to the Salem witchcraft trials; the impending fear of punishment, a cry for attention, and a sense of prideful vengeance power the girls into deluding their fellow townspeople.
In this strictly religious society, the power resides in the church, and anyone who goes against the church is severely punished. The idea of witchcraft is unorthodox and the society’s members will not stand for it. When Abigail and the girls are discovered dancing in the woods along with Tituba, Reverend Parris asks her repeatedly to confess her sin. Abigail refuses to disclose any information about the incident in the woods due to fear of punishment. In order to make sure that she does not get punished, she scolds the other girls that are with her, “We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. Let either of you breathe a word or the edge of a word, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you”(19). Knowing that their actions will have reprocussions, Abigail uses this threat to get the girls to lie about what is going on. The endless web of lies the girls come up with keep them from being punished by the authorities. Then when confronted by Judge Hathorne, Abigail insists on further spinning her web of lies as she cries out, “I never sold myself! I’m a good girl! I’m a proper girl!”(40). She does not want the church authorities to condemn her so she proceeds to falsely portray her innocence by attempting to convince them she has nothing to do with their enemy. In addition, Danforth summons the girls to give them a chance to justify their actions and tell the truth, “Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and describes death as the penalty thereof. But likewise, children, the law and Bible damn all bearers of false witness” (95). Danforth expresses the disapproval of lies, for it will damn the girls if their accusations prove to be wrong. Therefore, under the law of the church, they will be punished for exploiting the accusations of witchcraft. This is why the girls must resort to spinning a web of lies to protect each other from being punished by the church authorities.
Moreover, the girls receive all sorts of praise and attention from the witchcraft trials. The girls scandalous accusations become the main point of frenzy for the Salem community, making them seem so innocent. The people react so quickly to the trials that the girls feel the need to keep this frenzy going amongst the community. This motivates the girls to push out more accusations against others to justify why they choose certain people. Mary Warren, John Proctors maid who was a part of the group of girls dancing in the woods, tells John when she arrives from the court, “I must tell you, sir, I will be gone every day now. I am amazed you do not see what weighty work we do. I am an official of the court, they say” (565). Since she is appointed as an official of the court, she makes herself believe that her obligation is to be admired by the court and the people. The title serves as a mask for her swindling behavior. As a so called victim, her accusations prove...
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