The Crucible - Emnity and Distrust

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Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, is set in Salem village where an atmosphere of enmity and mistrust has been created through the conflicts and disagreements many villagers experience throughout the play. Many of these are caused by or, similar to the conflict between Parris and Proctor, are inflated by the many accusations of witchcraft occurring in the village.

John Proctor is very rarely involved in village affairs, preferring to spend time on his farm than getting involved in politics. He does however still have conflicts with others in the village, especially Parris, whom he mistrusts greatly. Proctor genuinely dislikes Parris and disagrees with all that he does. Proctor’s hatred of Parris causes him to rarely attend church services on Sabbath Day and instead spends the day on his farm. The reason Proctor does not attend is that he disagrees with Paris’ morals and motivations and cannot bare to listen to the “hellfire and damnation” that he preaches during his services. Proctor also refuses to have his youngest child baptised because he dreads the thought of Parris touching his baby, believing that there is no “light of god in that man”, even though he is a minister. Parris has glorious hopes for his church and his own future. Proctor believes that Parris is obsessed with material goods and “dreams cathedrals not clapboard meatin’ houses”, as shown by his replacement of the pewter candlesticks with gold ones. The pewter candlesticks were hand made by Francis Nurse, and therefore had great sentimental value, but Parris preached “nothing but golden candlesticks” until he had them replaced. Proctor is outraged that his hard work goes to waste on materialistic items such as new candlesticks that serve no other purpose but to look good. Parris has a great influence on the witch-hunt and is often expressing his opinion about Proctor in an attempt to have him arrested. He contradicts many of Proctor’s words in the courtroom when Proctor testifies that the women arrested have an “upright reputation”, and therefore the accusations cannot be truthful. Parris refers to the bible to prove Proctor wrong, using the son of Adam and Eve, Cain, who killed his brother Able, as an example of an upright person who can perform horrible acts. This hatred and suspicion between Proctor and Parris contributes greatly to the tense and hostile environment that occurs during the play.

Proctor also conflicts with Thomas Putnam, whom he mistrusts because of his greed and willingness to hurt others in order gain land for himself, throughout the play. Putnam uses the crisis occurring in Salem Village as a discrete way to dispose of his neighbours, causing their land to go up for sale. This is one of the only ways that Putnam can lay his hands upon new land and is therefore merciless in his attempts at increasing his land ownership. Proctor has a heated argument with Putnam about the ownership of a piece of land, which both believe to be theirs. Putnam soon threatens Proctor, proving his willingness to harm others for his own gain.

Much of the tension felt between Proctor and his enemies is caused by the doubt he feels about himself, which in turn is felt as a result of his lechery. Hale preaches that the catastrophe occurring in Salem Village must have been because somebody has previously done a very bad thing and God was punishing the whole village as a result. This causes Proctor to blame himself for the disaster. When Elizabeth is arrested for witchcraft, Proctor’s inner loathing and guilt causes his temper to shorten. His guilty conscience is the cause of many of the outbursts and arguments that Proctor is involved in, therefore contributing to the mistrust and anger that is overrunning the village.

Abigail is the cause and instigator of the witch-hunt, and is therefore the person who inflates the inimical atmosphere in Salem Village. There is a great deal of tension between Abigail and Proctor due to their affair and this, in...
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