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In the Crucible, Arthur Miller shows us how fear and suspicion can destroy a community.

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Introduction

In the Crucible, Arthur Miller shows us how fear and suspicion can destroy a community. As the play develops, Miller shows us how fear and suspicion increase and destroy the community. Throughout the play it becomes apparent that the community gets more and more divided as time goes on. In the beginning there were arguments about ownership of land between some of the villagers. As the story progresses people fear for their own safety and begin accusing their neighbours of witchcraft in order to escape being hanged. Salem became overrun by the hysteria of witchcraft. Mere suspicion itself was accepted as evidence. As a Satan-fearing community, they could not think of denying the evidence, because to deny the existence of evil was to deny the existence of goodness; which was God. In the 17th century a group of Puritans migrated from England to America - the land of dreams - to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. As Arthur Miller tells us in the introduction to Act 1 'no one can really know what their lives were like.' We would never be able to imagine a life with 'no novelists' and 'their creed forbade anything resembling a theatre or vain entertainment.' 'They didn't celebrate Christmas, and a holiday from work meant only that they must concentrate even more upon prayer.' They led a very austere and bleak life. The people of Salem - from which the audience derive their "good" and "evil" characters - were superstitious and highly religious, and their Theocratic form of government offered them security and unity. ...read more.

Middle

Rev. Parris fears that the incident could taint his reputation among the other Puritans. As a result, Rev. Parris continually interrogates Abigail with the intent of getting what he feels is the truth. Abigail continually acts innocent in order to eliminate the suspicion of Rev. Parris. To keep the incident a secret, Abigail threatens the girls involved in the incident, so that they will not talk. More specifically, she threatens the girls with death by her hands - 'a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it.' They all fear Abigail for she is older, wiser and above all, what teenagers would now define as 'cool'. As the 1st scene develops, Thomas Putnam, John Proctor and Giles Corey are arguing about the land. This is the first instance in which the community is becoming divided, where by as if these people cannot settle their petty disputes then it is unlikely that they will offer support to each other in the forthcoming events. It shows the selfishness is ripe in Salem. Thomas Putnam manipulated the circumstances when he accused Proctor of stealing lumber from the tract that he claims is in his bounds. This is clearly an obvious and corrupt attempt to receive money from Proctor and get more power. The great power that the girls and the court had over the community made people afraid to speak out against them and criticise the court. The court scenes were times of tension, intensity, pressure and conflicts between powerful authorities refusing to realise they have signed away innocent lives on the strength of a lie. ...read more.

Conclusion

Moreover, in 1950, America enforced what it said was 'the most rigorous system of security and intelligence investigations in the history of America.' The same happens in The Crucible but obviously on not such a wide scale - just a local town. Arthur Miller couldn't write a direct attack on McCarthyism as he would have been condemning the work of Americans and would surely have been discovered to be against them. Although after he had written The Crucible and won the Antoinette Perry and the Donaldson Prizes, he incited the enmity of the House Committee of the Un-American Activities. In 1957 Miller was fined and given a suspended 30-day sentence for contempt of Congress, for refusing to reveal names of those at communist meetings with him in 1947 but a year later in 1958 his conviction was quashed by the Supreme Court. The play is relevant to any society destroyed by fear, suspicion, paranoia and accusation - other societies where something similar has happened include East Germany under communism after World War 2, Afghanistan under the Taliban and China under the Cultural Revolution when the Red Guards would decry people for being bourgeois reactionaries. In conclusion I think that the ideas of fear and suspicion appear throughout the play. Initially the suspicion starts on a small scale but gradually develops and destroys the community. The fear of the devil at the beginning extends and includes fear of others and neighbours but when the court comes into action the community are also afraid of the court. All the fears and suspicion mounts up and the community is thrown into turmoil. ...read more.

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