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The Crucible 2 Essay, Research Paper


ESSAY QUESTION: Miller tries to show that conflict in The Crucible stems from certain recognisable human failings such as greed, vengeance, jealousy, ambition, fear and hysteria. Discuss this statement and, where possible, refer to specific instances from the play to support your argument.

Life as a human is dictated by an inborn hunger or purpose, and people, in general, will act on this hunger for their own personal gain in their individual ways. This hunger, be it for wealth, land, love, power, revenge, or pride, can, and will be the undoing or failing of all mankind as Miller so clearly points out in his play The Crucible . This essay will explore the motives of characters within the play and even the motives of Arthur Miller himself and therefore show how conflict stems from certain recognisable human failings including those mentioned above, fear, and hysteria.

Reverend Parris is the character that initiates the hysteria of the Salem witch trials, in a community where authorities wasted no time minding the business of it s citizens, what should have been seen as teen frivolity was blown into one of the ugliest moments in American History. Parris sparks this by firstly acting on his own paranoia, which the reader would find in the introduction he believed he was being persecuted where ever he went , and calling Reverend Hale in an attempt for self-preservation .if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it. This statement says a lot about the character of Reverend Parris: a greedy, power hungry man who is more concerned with his own reputation than the souls of his niece and daughter. He always acts on fear, a fear that he will lose his position of power in the community. Parris does not want the trials to end as a fraud because the scandal of having a lying daughter and niece would end his career in Salem.

Salem citizens in general were afraid of all ungodly things with their Puritan views. They had no trouble believing that, because Parris had called Reverend Hale, (known for his studies in demonic arts), there must truly be witchcraft within the town. The play progresses and certain characters begin to develop: here is a community full of underlying personal grudges. Religion pervades every aspect of life, A man may think that God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. but it is a religion that lacks the ritual of confession. Here and throughout the play we see how this affects John Proctor, a man so proud of his name that guilt eats at his very heart, as he will not let out his secret pain in a vain attempt to keep his integrity. As there is no ritual outlet to manage emotions such as anger, jealousy, or resentment these trials became to many an outlet for the expression of these conflicts within the acceptable bounds of defending God.

Abigail Williams, until these progressions had held no power; no standing; no rights within the town. It is Abby who, after denying all, first sees an opportunity in the trials, a chance for revenge on the wife of the man she loves and revenge on a cruel and gossiping community. Abigail sees Tituba brought for questioning and notices how easy it is for Tituba to implicate others while saving her own neck {then} [Abigail rises, staring as though inspired, and cries out] I want to open myself. For the rest of Act I Betty and Abby in feverish ecstasy cry out the names of their enemies. Here two young women, usually powerless in that day s society, find the ability to grant life or death and what sprang from a want for revenge came to a frightening lust for power.

Abigail uses the fear within her community to cultivate and expose more and more of the conflicts in that town and the society loses itself to hysteria. If Abigail and her friends point at someone and go into hysterics, that person is arrested for bewitching the girls. The community fears the depravation of their names and standing, and quickly they will offer the names of others to save their own. Friends and neighbours cannot defend the innocence of their neighbours without putting their own innocence in doubt. We see this after Giles tells the story of Putnam killing his neighbours for their land and Judge Hathorne asks for a name I ll give you no name. I mentioned my wife s name once and I ll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute . It must be a heavy burden on Giles heart to know his wife will hang because of him.

After seeing the red flag raised by Parris in the first act Thomas and Ann Putnam jump into the trials, more than happy to add their own two cents . The Putnam s see that witchcraft allows the misfortunes of dead children, political failures, and land squabbles to be blamed on supernatural influences. No one has to accept individual responsibility for any of the conflicts that divide the community because everyone can simply say, The devil made me do It. . Thomas has a lot of failings and believes that wealth grants him the right to authority and power and thinks if you throw enough mud it sticks. Throughout the play he is involved in land squabbles and acts of vengeance. The audience sees this in the first act when Putnam goads Proctor about taking lumber from his grounds. It is Putnam s failing of greed, vengeance and ambition that lead to the hangings of many in the community as the day his child called out on Jacobs, he said she d given him a fair gift of land. .

The trials have brought out many human failings that have initiated conflicts and grudges within the town. we are only what we always were, but naked now, Aye naked. And the wind, God s icy wind will blow. Proctor, a man who hates hypocrisy, and has strong morals says this line to Mary Warren. He is saying that all the masks have been melted away in this crucible and the true person shall be seen naked underneath. Proctor sees that his time of reckoning has come before his death and the failings that have twisted his soul, that affair with Abigail must now be said. Proctor realises he must sacrifice his integrity to save the lives of others, but it has come too late. The court officials are now too proud to admit mistake, and from Proctor s admission comes only the beginnings of more conflict, grief and guilt.

With twelve hanged and seven to hang Reverend Hale returns after having quit the court in disgust. There is blood on my head! Can you not see blood on my head? After his ambitious beginnings Hale now realises his mistakes: the accusers are not automatically innocent, they too act on inborn hunger. Hale shows the audience how Abby acted out of revenge and jealousy She has always struck me as false . The audience would now be able to relate to the main characters in this play as they recognise these failings within themselves and the people around them. Perhaps, if it came down to it we would act in the same way as Arthur Miller s characters.

Arthur Miller uses the actual historical event of the Salem trials to serve as a metaphorical representation of the pressure to conform to societal norms. At the time Miller wrote the play McCarthyism was in full swing. Thousands of purported communists and anarchists were rounded up and arrested. The characters in the play pointed to those they held grudges against in a similar way McCarthy hauled before his investigating committee any person he felt like accusing of commie leanings and faced him with unsubstantiated charges of treason. McCarthy used the fear of commies the same way Abigail, Parris and Hale used the fear of evil and the Devil to prosecute those they chose in the community. In both these cases human failings were acted upon for personal gain and position in society. These two cases are stories that seem to repeat in history over and over again.

No matter what the time or in which country, we will find these same weaknesses when assessing our own strengths. Would you sacrifice others to save yourself? Or would you sacrifice yourself to save others? It is a question all hope they will not face or have to answer. Very few could say they do not posses the failings that make us all so very human. Thus one can see that from these universal human failings, stem conflicts with the ability to consume us all.

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