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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible are both distinctly different narratives of the Salem Witch trials. The Scarlet Letter is a novel and The Crucible is a play. While The Scarlet Letter deals mainly with the sin of adultery, The Crucible mainly deals with witchcraft. Both have obvious similarities like the setting and the crime, however, one of the greatest similarities between the two is the loyalty of the Puritan people to their appointed officials. Whether they were church or court officials, the public supported them no matter what, because in their theocratic society, the eyes of the officials were those of God.
In The Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne’s punishment was assigned to her by a highly prestigious panel of men from the Churches and Courts of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. All of the townspeople came to see Hester Prynne’s punishment because of their loyalty to the court. They had to see what was going on with the court, because that is what they held in highest regard.
“Now, good Sir, our Massachusetts magistracy, bethinking themselves that this woman is youthful and fair, and doubtless was strongly tempted to her fall; – and that, moreover, as is most likely, her husband may be at the bottom of the sea; – they have not been bold to put in force the extremity of our righteous law against her. The penalty thereof is death. But, in their great mercy and tenderness of heart, they have doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom.” Ch. 3
Even though they though that the officials’ punishment for Hester was too harsh, they still went along with it because no one dared argue with the court.
In The Scarlet Letter, the townspeople are so loyal to the “Good Reverend Dimmesdale, ” that they are completely blinded by the fact that he is the biggest sinner. Everything that Dimmesdale says gets turned into something else.
“They deemed the young clergyman a miracle of holiness. They fancied him the mouth-piece of Heaven’s messages of wisdom, and rebuke, and love. In their eyes, the very ground on which he trod was sanctified.” Ch.11
The members of the congregation were so taken over by Dimmesdale that they thought him to be holly. They saw in him, the same things they would imagine to see in God. Dimmesdale had the power to rule over them because their commitment to him was so strong.
In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, the courts of the Colony are held above all else. During the play in one of the many conversations, a debate comes up in which it is clearly shown that the courts are the most important establishment of Massachusetts.
“All innocent and Christian people are happy for the courts in Salem!”
“But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it.” Pg. 90
In the Puritan age, a person was considered good if they were Christian and innocent. If they were not Christian or broke the rigid Puritan code, they were a sinner. To be against the courts was to be a sinner. If one did not agree with their statements and actions, they were a sinner.
Though they are two very different stories, The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible have similarities. The high regard in which the court and church officials were held was one of them. The opinions of the court and the words of the church were all that mattered; they wee above all else because they were believed to carry the will of God.
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