Discuss the Importance of Female Characters in the Crucible and Snow Falling on Cedars. Compare the Ways They Are Presented.

Topics: The Crucible, Salem witch trials, Elizabeth Proctor Pages: 8 (3186 words) Published: March 5, 2006
Assignment1: Discuss the importance of female characters in ‘Snow Falling on Cedars,' and ‘The Crucible.' Compare the ways in which they are presented.

In both, the novel, ‘Snow Falling On Cedars,' and the play of ‘The Crucible,' the strength of the female characters is detailed by their portrayals throughout the text, highlighting their importance to the narrative of their respective literature.

When we are first introduced to Abigail, we learn that she has been raised by her uncle, Parris, "a widower with no interest with children, or talent with them," and this coupled with Salem's Puritan society leads to her feeling repressed by her environment, and seeking to change her position and status in Salem. Her affair with John Proctor leads to conflict between Salem's expectations of her, and her cynicism towards their hypocrisy and the "lying lessons" of their society. Hatsue is also torn between two sets of values during her youth and, like Abigail, this struggle is never fully reconciled. Hatsue feels repressed and confused because she is torn between the Japanese upbringing she has had, including her lessons with Mrs. Shigemura, and the attraction she feels toward the American culture; "her craving for existence and entertainment, for clothes, make-up, dances, movies." The reader learns this through the embedded narrative in Chapter 7, which provides the audience's first insight into the background detail of Hatsue's character, and therefore shows that her conflicting ideals will be important throughout the development of the narrative, and also to our understanding of Hatsue. She is therefore important in this respect, as it is through the readers' early introduction to this aspect of her character that the theme of conflicting values and cultures becomes apparent; this is suggestive to the reader of events and themes that may transpire later in the narrative, therefore maintaining their interest.

There are similarities between the communities of San Piedro and Salem, but their effects on the behaviour of the female characters differ significantly. For example, Salem is described in Arthur Miller's stage directions as a place where the "predilection for minding other people's business was time-honoured…and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness." It was also fiercely Puritan, and this aspect is expressed by the author as "a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies." As part of this strict religious government, it is likely that many of Salem's inhabitants felt repressed by its harsh restrictions and the way simple activities, such as dancing and reading, were regarded with suspicion. Abigail's reaction against the social context is indicative of this oppression; women were particularly marginalised in the patriarchal Puritan society, and were judged openly as inferior to men, and not permitted to speak in church. This is expressed further by the way Abigail laughs in church: an occurrence which is symbolic of her disrespect and revulsion towards Salem's hypocritical society, is viewed with suspicion and moral righteousness. This emphasises the restraints of the historical and social context, and so the audience can understand Abigail's discontent.

During the trials, Abigail acts as if in direct communication with God, in an apparently evangelistic way, and this immediately gains attention and respect from the religion-dominated justice system. This empowers her, and elevates her previously low status within Salem, to the extent that her word is enough to convict any of its inhabitants. Where society once repressed her, her actions gain her a crucial role within it, and she exploits this as much as possible.

Correspondingly, the community of San Piedro represses Hatsue, and this influences her...
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