How does Arthur Miller show in “The Crucible” that Salem Society has the capacity for what started as “just dancin’ in the woods” to end with the deaths of innocent people? Throughout “The Crucible”, Arthur Miller draws many comparisons to the infamous McCarthy era of the 1940’s and 50’s, and the frantic “witch hunts” for communists. The “guilty until proven innocent” stance which is adopted by Danforth displays the harsh reality that we witnessed in the McCarthy era, as countless writers were blacklisted for being “communist sympathisers” even if they didn’t admit.
The importance of reputations, as well as a lack of integrity prevails as catalysts in both eras, and the results, while not being as drastic in the McCarthy period, are similar. The title “The Crucible” makes the audience think of something that is heated up to remove any impurities in the substance inside it. This corresponds directly to the situation in Salem. The town is the crucible, and the people are the material inside it. They are purified by the witchcraft trials, as all of the problems that had existed in the village were brought to the surface, and were dealt with, one way or the other.
This is ironic, as the trials, which were corrupt themselves, managed to purify many people, albeit in an unconventional way. Abigail, Parris, Putnam and Danforth are the primary symbols of the corruption and greed in Salem and they manipulate the fear of the supernatural and the pressure of being seen as a good Christian. Being a theocracy, fear of God, the devil and the supernatural in general is something that haunts the minds of many of Salem’s inhabitants. These covetous individuals exploit the innocent peoples’ fears in court, with no regard for those on the receiving end of the accusations.
They accuse anyone they have to, as long as they gain, either security with Parris, land and money with Putnam, justification of rulings with Danforth, or the love John Proctor with Abigail. Once in court the accused person is in a dilemma, with nowhere to turn without some loss, whether it be life or reputation. Although at the beginning it represents a just system, the court slowly stoops to the level of the men who supposedly bring the chance of a fair hearing to the villagers.
Its senior figure, Danforth depicts perfectly how the town was brought to shambles by some old grudges and petty grievances, which were “swept under the carpet” and ignored. Proctor comments on this when he declares, “all our old pretence is ripped away… we are only what we always were, but naked now. ” Danforth is initially portrayed as a fair judge, but he slowly deteriorates, his pride and stubbornness prevailing at the crucial point of the play, as he states, “A person is either with this court or against it.
” After Elizabeth’s denial of Proctor committing lechery, Danforth refuses to accept the withdrawal of her answer. “She has spoken. Remove her! ” These words give the impression that he is unwilling to listen to anyone who contradicts or challenges his justice, even though he probably knows he is wrong. Rather than admit to making mistakes, he would let more innocent people die to protect his position and maintain the respect he demands from everyone. This lack of integrity and humbleness is a direct contrast with Hale, who rightly asks, “Is every defence an attack upon this court?
” and Proctor, whose character strengthens as we progress through the play. This again displays the importance of reputation and status to the people of this time, as does the accusation of Abigail by Parris, “Your name in the town – it is entirely white is it not? ” This prompts a sharp denial from Abigail, as her guilty conscience momentarily takes control. Even though it would appear Parris is questioning Abigail’s name in the village, his other motives could be to safeguard himself from any possible repercussions, as he is responsible for her actions.
There are men like Proctor, however, who are humble enough to face their flaws and do their utmost to repair any damage they have caused, even if they take a long time to get there and, in the case of Proctor, lose their life. What is ironic is that most of these people should represent hope to the community as priests, judges and respected figures of high status. Interestingly, the original motives of these people, especially Abigail, aren’t as heinous as one would imagine, because some of them have mitigating factors.
Abigail’s yearning for John Proctor’s love wouldn’t appear to be such a crime, but she completely disregards any consequences in her bid to reclaim Proctor as her own. Convicting others doesn’t appear to affect her at all, just as long as she gets her way. She isn’t afraid to betray her friends either, as she and Mercy Lewis accuse Mary Warren of committing black arts, and sending out a cold wind to them. She points the finger at Mary when she says, “A wind, a cold wind, has come.
(her eyes fall on Mary Warren). ” Her impulsive actions often cost others dearly, although there could be other motives and catalysts for her behaviour. A prime example is when she threatens the other girls, “I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you… I saw Indians smash my dear parents heads on the pillow next to mine. ” This harsh threat reveals a previously unknown side of Abigail as we see how the death of her parents could have affected her more than she realises.
Her desperate attempts to be with Proctor could be a way of reaching out for love and being accepted by someone. It is apparent throughout the play that she is looked down upon by the village people and to her uncle Parris, she is a burden, as his character notes state “he had no interest in children, or talent with them”. Nevertheless, this doesn’t excuse Abigail’s hate for Proctor’s wife Elizabeth, as her paranoia takes over in the accusation, “she is blackening my name in the village… She is a cold snivelling woman!
” These words paint a clear picture of Abigail’s hatred and jealousy of Elizabeth, which, indirectly, is one of the main sources of the problems in Salem. It also illustrates that Abigail isn’t the controlled character she would have us believe, as her immature personality makes her resort to throwing a tantrum for attention, again perhaps from a lack of tenderness or care in her past. Despite this, she is still a very calculating person, and she knows how to use peoples’ fears to get herself out of trouble. Abigail uses Hale’s words, “Does someone afflict you child?
… Perhaps some bird invisible to others,” later in the play to divert attention away from herself, and instil greater fear in the members of the court. By doing this, she has led the court away from their suspicions over her trustworthiness and brought the control back to herself. With a court that is so easily fooled, it is easy to see how certain individuals -Putnam and Parris- can manipulate it to their advantage. It is also ironic then how Abigail is obsessed with Proctor, who is eventually killed by her actions.
In stark contrast to Abigail, he is portrayed as a man of decent character, well respected in the community, but not without flaws, his affair with Abigail constantly lurking in his mind, and widening a rift between himself and his wife Elizabeth. He is seen by Parris as a threat, and Parris again seizes this opportunity to try and ruin his reputation through the accusation to Danforth, “beware this man, your Excellency, this man is mischief. ” There are many reasons for Parris to envy Proctor, as even though Proctor isn’t perfect, he commands a lot more respect from other Salemites, and is a better Christian than Parris.
Parris’ apparent willingness to ruin Proctor is just one of many old grudges which are reignited during these turbulent times. He hides in Danforth’s shadow, stirring up trouble and ensuring everything goes his way. The manner in which he presents himself as a friend of the parishioners and preaches the moral high ground in court only serves to intensify the audiences’ hate for him. In tandem with Danforth’s twisted logic and incessant interrogation, Parris transforms the court from a symbol of hope to a place where any chance of justice is quashed.