Crucible Essay

Submitted By molly_ricter
Words: 821
Pages: 4

The Crucible: There are few events in American History that continue to as be clouded by sensationalism and controversy as the Salem Witch Trials. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a small town called Salem, Massachusetts undergoes a series of trials based on accusations of witchcraft by local teenage girls. As these trials progress, most of the townspeople are accused or given the opportunity to accuse others, which only adds to the mass hysteria and social unrest of that time. Arthur Miller’s portrayal of the Salem Witch Trials is a story of both personal and social struggles, artfully shown throughout the play in characters such as Reverend Parris, Mary Warren, and John Proctor. Reverend Parris’ social and personal struggles are evident in the beginning of the story. His overarching social dilemma is based on his constant striving for a perfect reputation as well as the need to conserve it. For example, when Betty was discovered ill, Parris sent for the doctor, who informed him through Susanna Walcott that he needed to look to unnatural causes for the cause of it. To this he responds, “No-no. There be no unnatural cause here. … Let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none.” (9) By saying this, Parris shows his concern for how Betty’s poor health will affect his social standing if it is deemed to be witchcraft-related, revealing his true callous nature and self-preserving priorities. Similarly, his personal crisis is mainly whether or not to accept witchcraft as a valid option to explain what is happening in Salem. This is apparent when Hale is warning Parris and Putnam about the possible outcomes of his examination, to which Parris says, “It is agreed sir-it is agreed- we will abide by your judgment.” (40) He is clearly more than happy to give away his responsibility of inspecting the nature of his daughter’s sickness, as failing to do so can no longer tarnish his reputation. Towards the middle of the play, Mary Warren demonstrates troubling personal and social issues. Being raised in the Puritan lifestyle, Mary was taught from a young age to be an honest and respectful woman. This leads her to question herself, wanting to tell the truth and testify against the girls and the validity of their accusations. When she walks into the courtroom after signing the deposition, she was described as “keeping her eyes to the ground” and to have been supported by Proctor “as though she were near collapse” (91). This excerpt illustrates the inner turmoil of Mary upon deciding to turn away from Abigail and the other girls in dedicating herself to legitimacy. However, Mary Warren’s obvious social problem can be derived from how much the other girls, mainly Abigail, intimidate her. In response to Proctor’s insisting that she tell the truth, she utters, “(in terror) I cannot. They’ll turn on me-… (repeating “I cannot, I cannot!)” (85). Warren is petrified of her peers, leading her to later accuse John Proctor of witchcraft to win back their favor. As the witch hunt concludes, John Proctor’s personal and social struggles