The Crucible - Functional Society Cannot Exist Without a Balance in Power

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English essay

‘The Crucible’, written in the 1950s by playwright Arthur Miller, is a dramatisation of the Salem witch trials of 1962. Miller wrote the play as an allegory of McCarthyism in American during the 1950s. The play explores the notion that a functional society cannot exist without a balance in power. Miller’s positioning of Abigail, Reverend Parris and Reverend Hale, invite the reader to see their actions as an abuse of power, particularly to serve their own self-interest.

Abigail is a previously marginalised character who, as a woman, occupies the lowest rung of male-dominated Salem. She uses her newfound power to deflect attention from her own sins and scheme her way into John Proctor’s arms. In Act 1, Abigail “confesses” to consorting with the Devil, which, according to the theology of Salem, means that she is redeemed and free from guilt. Then, as the next step in absolving herself of sin, she dramatically accuses others of being witches – ‘I saw Sarah Good with the devil…I saw Goody Osburn with the devil…I saw Bridget Bishop with the devil’ (pg49). These accusations shifted the burden of shame from her shoulders to those she named. Abigail’s accusations enable Parris, Hale and Putnam to perceive her as valuable, truthful character sent to Salem by God to help ‘cleanse the village’ (pg48). However, it is evident that Abigail uses Salem’s theocracy to achieve power through accusation and abuse this power to protect her reputation and evade the consequences of her wrong-doing. Furthermore, as Abigail’s power augements, she uses it to frame Elizabeth Proctor of witchery as she believes this will allow her to ‘dance with me (Proctor) on my wife’s grave!’ (pg98). Abigail accuses Elizabeth’s ‘familiar spirit’ (pg 70) of pushing a needle in to her stomach. The Salem community is living in hysteria and paranoia and Abigail’s power enables her accusation to automatically lead to the arrest of Elizabeth. The reader is invited to accept that Abigail is...