The Crucible Final Essay
Widely interpreted as an allegorical testament to the hysteria of the 1950s ‘Red Scare’, The Crucible, a renowned playwright by Arthur Miller, depicts the troubled state of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. During this time period, New England has become notorious for conducting witchcraft trials against members of their own Puritan communities, hanging many people who were likely innocent, but given unfair trials. In plain context, the panic is started when a few girls are discovered dancing in the woods by a Puritan minister. While this would be dismissed as a childish means of fun by today’s standard, Puritan lifestyle and culture likely contributed to the amounting hysteria surrounding the suspected witchcraft, as Puritans valued their religious devotion and conservative way of life significantly more than most people do today. Some people believe that the author, Arthur Miller, drew upon his experiences during the McCarthy ‘Communist Espionage’ hearings as an inspiration to the themes and events in this playwright. In his play notes, Miller informs his audience and readers early on that the main conflict between the characters actually would have nothing to do with witchcraft. Instead, he states examples of reasons that are what really turned these Puritan colonists against each other including greed, lust, envy, and pride. While it seems everyone had an alternative motive behind supporting the witch hunts, people would often times contribute to the hearings out of fear or simple prejudice and mistrust. Among the victims who are accused of witchcraft are women, the poor, the elderly, African slaves, and other types of social classes that are allowed little representation in Puritan Society. One girl, Abigail Williams, does not hesitate to seize the chance to play the role of the victim, when her cousin, Betty, falls into a coma and is thought to be bewitched. Many other girls follow Abigail’s lead, setting up the main conflict in the story. The emotions that these characters exhibit during the play greatly support the theme that fear and prejudice shroud rationality and cause people to see evils in others when they simply do not exist. Abigail Williams provides a perfect example of how an individual’s intolerance causes them to act out against their fellow neighbors. Of all the characters in the story of The Crucible, that of Abigail’s seems the least complex. She is power hungry and manipulative and is easily seen pretending to suffer under those who displease her. She is also seen to be intimidating as when Abigail threatens to kill the other girls in her group if they disobey her. However, she is also fearful of the consequences of witchcraft and uses her cunning to focus the blame on others. Throughout the play, Abigail’s motivations for sustaining the idea of witchcraft are seemingly simple and obvious: her wish to extract revenge on Elizabeth Proctor, whose husband, John Proctor, she had an affair with. Her spite for Elizabeth is really only driven by her sexual lust for John and her desire to replace Elizabeth’s place. In addition, Abigail truly feels victimized by Elizabeth after she is fired from being the Proctor’s servant when the affair is unveiled. Abigail’s narrow-minded hate for Elizabeth Proctor is plainly seen when her uncle, Parris, first mentions the issue to her. Here, Abigail says that “My name is good in the village! Elizabeth Proctor is an envious, gossiping liar! (Act1)” Abigail’s loathing of Elizabeth can even be explained out of sheer envy. While she may believe that her affair with John Proctor places her higher for John’s love, she has yet to realize the reality that her childish naivety allows her to see. This is why when John rejects her, she retains her same conviction that Elizabeth Proctor is a “Cold, sniveling woman (Act 1)”and uses her advantage of being considered a victim of witchcraft to follow through with her plans to replace Elizabeth. In her quest to...
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