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The Scarlet Letter Vs. The Crusible Essay, Research Paper

When the topic of a Puritanical society is brought up, most people think of a rigorous, conservative, highly devout society. While this may have usually been the case, this was not always so. The Puritan society was also known not to act out of brotherly, “Christian love”, but to cruelly lash out on those who sinned or were deemed unfit for society. Two works of literature that display both aspects of this society very accurately are The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and The Crucible, by Arthur Miller. The Scarlet Letter displays a society that treats two people very differently who commit the sin of adultery together. The woman, Hester Prynne, admits her sin, is forced to always wear a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom, and is ostracized from society. The man, Reverend Dimmesdale, who hides his sin from the world, is almost worshipped by the townspeople, but is filled with the dishonor of his action. Hawthorne illustrates how insensitive a Puritan society can be to those who admit their sinful actions.

The Crucible is a play that reveals the story of the famous witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts. In the story, Abigail Williams, the orphaned niece of the town?s minister, Reverend Parris, is the main person who accuses people of sending their spirits on her and the other girls. What starts as children dancing in the woods leads to the accusation and execution of many innocent people for witchcraft. The two works of literature, The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter have very similar qualities, including setting, difference, and general aspects of the characters, while there are also specific parallels between characters, such as Abigail and Hester, and Parris and Dimmesdale.

The settings in both The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible are similar in many ways. The Scarlet Letter takes place around the 1640s, as The Crucible occurs in 1692. The time period is very important in both pieces, because it is a time of religious intolerance and a conservative attitude pervades in New England, where both works of literature take place. This Puritan setting is also very important in both works of literature. The reason behind the townspeople persecuting sinners is because of the Puritan beliefs of the time period. This is the driving force between the actions of the characters. The setting of a religiously intolerant village is also the main reason behind the conflict that lies in each plot.

The conflicts in both works of literature are also similar. The same thing, the excessively devout town in which the setting takes place, causes them both. The conflict in The Scarlet Letter that occurs between Dimmesdale, Hester, and Chillingworth; is caused by the town?s intolerance for sinners. Hester?s life is spent in complete loneliness because of the way the town treats her. Chillingworth, Hester?s past husband, is like most of the townspeople, because he feels the need to punish and inflict pain on sinners, especially those who have personally harmed him. Chillingworth tries to gain revenge on Dimmesdale, the man who commits adultery with his wife. The town?s desire to seek out and personally condemn sinners is also the source of conflict in The Crucible. In The Crucible, the townspeople hunt out the witches in the community as an attempt to rid the town of evil. In both, the conflict is caused by the town?s self appointed right to rancorously persecute and punish anyone who is found sinning. The conflict is also similar because both towns are generally the same. They are both located in the same general area of America, which causes the people to have similar beliefs and traditions. This includes the townspeople, and the general aspects of the characters.

The general aspects of characters are also similar in both The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible. Both have a main antagonist, who wishes to punish sinners. In The Scarlet Letter, this person is Roger Chillingworth, who wants to gain revenge on Dimmesdale, and in The Crucible, the antagonist is Abigail Williams, the girl who mainly accuses the people of being witches. In addition, both works of literature include ignorant townspeople who contribute to the main conflict. In The Scarlet Letter, these people are the ones who loathe Hester, but love Reverend Dimmesdale.

The people in Reverend Parris? home while his daughter is sick, and the people in court in The Crucible are similar to the townspeople in The Scarlet Letter. Part of this is due to the Puritan setting. This affects the way the people think, and how they view sinners. One other similarity between the characters are the similar town figures in each. In The Scarlet Letter, there is a minister, Dimmesdale, a political figure, Billingham, and one family that the plot focuses on, which is Hester and Pearl, who go through many problems because of Hester?s sin. The Crucible has a similar Reverend, Parris, political figure, and it also focuses on one main family, the Proctors who go through many problems due to the witch hunt.

Other than the general similarities between characters, there are also many specific parallels. One specific parallel between characters is that of Reverend Parris and Dimmesdale. One obvious similarity is that they are both ministers in the towns they live in. However, more parishioners like Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter than Parris in The Crucible. Yet, both ministers are concerned with their image. In The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale hides his sin to prevent punishment, but this was not the only reason. He also does not confess because he still wants the Puritans to idolize and venerate him, which they do to an extreme. Parris is also very much like Dimmesdale in The Crucible, because he also cares greatly about public image. He does not want people to think his daughter actually signs the Black Man?s book, and wants to hide her mysterious illness from the parishioners. In addition, he fears John Proctor, because Proctor does not like him. Parris feels that anyone that does not like him will become a threat to his authority as the minister. That is one reason he presses the execution of John Proctor. Another reason he presses the executions is that he cannot bear the thought of witches in his parish. If there were witches, this would prove he is not performing his job, as he should. Besides the parallel of ministers, there are also other parallels between characters in these two works. Another parallel is between Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter and Abigail Williams in The Crucible. While Hester is considered the protagonist, Abigail is considered the antagonist. Both are startlingly similar in many ways. For one thing, both go through the same types of problems, because they are both very much alone in their lives. Hester is shunned by society and lives on the outskirts of town. Abigail is an orphan, and considering she is never really part of a family, she probably has a feeling of loneliness for all of her life.

Another similarity between the two is that they are both adulteresses. Hester is a married woman who is unfaithful by sleeping with another man, Dimmesdale. Abigail is not married, but also commits adultery by sleeping with a married man, John Proctor. Both sins are essential to the plot of both works of literature. However, Hester pays the price of this sin, while Abigail does not.

The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible are written in two different time periods, but are still similar in many ways. Both demonstrate the true aspects of a Puritan society very accurately. Because of this accuracy, naturally they are similar and have many parallels. Both have similar conflicts, settings, and characters. The fact that they have so many parallels is probably the reason why both are considered outstanding works of literature. They both contain the same element of truth and accuracy of the Puritan society and will most likely survive as great works of literature for many times to come.


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Scarlet Letter” New York: Bantam Books, 1986

Miller, Authur. “The Crusible” New York: Bantam Books, 1963

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