Belonging: Salem Witch Trials and Society

Topics: Salem witch trials, The Crucible, John Proctor Pages: 9 (3808 words) Published: July 10, 2013
“An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging”. Discuss this view with detailed reference to your prescribed text and choosing ONE other related text of your own choosing. The natural human need to belong is a characteristic of most human beings. The interaction with others and the world around an individual can be a positive, enriching experience or can be a negative, limiting experience. These experiences are part of belonging, and an individual is often left with the choice of choosing wether the sacrifice of loosing ones individual identity and conforming to a group, wether it be a society, belief or authority or choosing to hold onto individuality, independence and freedom is right for them as an individual. This moral dilemma is displayed in the stage play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller written in 1953, based on the Salem witch hunts of Massachusetts in 1692 and the 1950s anti communist extremist of McCarthyism. The characters of the play are faced with moral dilemma of self righteousness and belonging to ones self or conforming and sacrificing their own beliefs to avoid persecution and isolation from society. ‘Into the Wild’, a film by Sean Penn, is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, a man who is faced with the ultimate struggle between belonging to society, a family and relationships between other people and the independency and freedom that he so surely seeks. Both texts use techniques such as irony and contrast and setting to convey the ideas of interaction with the people that are around them and the world that they live in and how the experiences shared can change an individual’s perspective on belonging.

In the opening scenes of the play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller, key ideas of persecution of those who don’t belong and of those who choose not to conform to the strict rules of the Puritan society that the city of Salem believed in and the consequences and perspective of an individual’s need to belong are beginning to be expressed. Abigail, an orphan of low social standing in the town, who is of a manipulative, vengeful and deceitful manner, who longs to belong in the community as more than just an orphan begins to twist the thoughts and actions of the other girls in the community such as Mary Warren, Betty Parris, Ruth Putnam, Mercy Lewis and Tituba in hope of saving her own dignity and the little respect she holds in the community and to avoid persecution for disobeying the strict Puritan belief of no dancing and recreational activities that herself and other girls in the town participated in the woods the previous night. By using threats and fright Abigail manipulates Betty, Tituba, Mercy and Mary into sworn secrecy, “Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” (act one). Through acts of desperation and vengefulness Abigail is able to take advantage of the talk of witchcraft throughout Salem that Tituba has been accused of. Seeing it as a chance to bring down Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor’s wife’s reputation in order to receive affection from John Proctor Abigail hopes to bring persecution upon her by accusing her of witchcraft, this is seen in act two when Mary Warren informs the Proctors of her mentioning in court. Abigail is a direct example of how an individual has to choose between conforming to an ideology and loosing moral self consciousness in order to belong, but in this example it enriches Abigail’s experience of belonging as she gains respect and authority throughout the community. The play allows the audience to witness the persecution of innocence such as that of Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, Goody Osborn and Martha Corey, all of whom are accused of witchcraft and Giles Corey and John Proctor who are arrested for crimes against the court....
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