Furthermore, it appears Salem is so inherently religious that the people are blinded by their own “parochial snobbery” and instead of modernising, they focus only on paying “homage to God”. In this sense the writer is presenting a major concern to the reader, as a community that carries an “innate resistance” towards “heathens” is guaranteed to boil over at a later stage. Outsiders are simply not welcome or accepted in this society and it is this struggle with what Miller calls the “dark and threatening” that in many respects seals the fate of several characters in the play. Therefore it is obvious to the reader why Abigail chooses Tituba as a scapegoat and is the first to be accused of dealing in witchcraft – she is black, she is a woman and she is a slave – all of which make her an easy target for singling out. As well as this, the community of Salem are curiously described by Miller as being “a dedicated folk” who perhaps focus more attention on removing the presence of the devil than they do on worshipping God. This leads certain characters in the play, such as Mr. and Mrs. Putnam, to seemingly accept the accused as witches too easily, at times even drawing conclusions where there are none to be made, without even questioning the credibility of the accuser. The fact that the accuser is always accepted as holy is a highly disturbing thought for the reader as we know that only more deception can come of this.
Moreover, something we notice near to the end of Act 1 is that the community of Salem, which on the surface appears to very closely-knit, is actually saturated with an underbelly of mistrust, deception and malice. Many of the characters Miller has created seem like genuine and decent members of society at first but we soon learn that in Salem lies and pretences play a dominating role in many of their lives – not least Abigail Williams. When questioned about her suspicious “dancing” in the woods the night previous, rather than explain herself she falsely accuses Tituba of being a witch: “She makes me drink blood!”. In doing this, Miller has begun to depict Abigail’s true motive – saving her own life by sacrificing a friend’s. Only a page later Miller reveals yet another hidden motive, this time of Mr. Putnam, by making him ask if Tituba “ever (saw) Sarah Good with (the devil)”. We can clearly see that Putnam has maliciously thrown Sarah Good’s name into question for reasons we can only assume are to benefit himself. The tragedy has been born with the creation of the witch hunt – all spurring from the characters’ betrayal of their supposedly fellow citizens. Additionally, if we look deeper into the text we may infer that the purpose of the witch hunt is in fact not to drive the devil out of Salem but to keep its citizens oppressed and subdued – preventing them from speaking their minds. Indeed Miller puts it excellently that the witch hunt is an instrument used by the elders “to whip men into a surrender to a particular church or church state”. Those characters such as John Proctor who wish to speak out at what they perceive as idiocy at work can not do so at risk of being accused themselves. Instead he makes subtle comments revealing his true thoughts: “I’ve heard you to be a sensible man, Mr. Hale. I hope you’ll leave some of it in Salem”. Overall however, Salem is presented in Act 1 as an oppressed town where characters’ fears are exploited in order to maintain authority – all of which represent a major concern for the reader.
A further concern Miller presents to us regarding the community of Salem in Act 1 is the fixation many characters have with maintaining their existing reputations, amongst other flaws. When Reverend Parris finds that the town doctor has no cure for his daughter and that witchcraft may be involved, he simply dwells on the fact that he “(has) many enemies” that are “sworn to drive (him) from (his) pulpit” if this is true. Rather than consider what this means for his daughter, Miller gives us a revealing indication of what he truly values most in his life: “Now my ministry’s at stake, my ministry and perhaps your cousin’s life”, showing he puts his reputation first. This creates much unease for the reader as we learn that a Reverend, supposedly one the holiest men in the community, is actually a very greedy and dominating character who puts the “respect…/(of) these stiff-necked people” above the health of his daughter. Moreover, another character with a major flaw is John Proctor, a native farmer of Salem. Proctor is the closest to a decent, honest man in Act 1 as he does not appear to have an ulterior motive in visiting Parris other than seeing “what mischief your uncle’s brewin’ now”, and so we are quick to trust him. Proctor is more considerate than the other characters, not quick to accuse others of witchcraft and in fact does not believe in witchcraft at all which causes us to lend more faith to him. However, whilst in many senses he is seen as an admirable figure, under the surface he is not all that he appears and we realise this when we are presented with his conversation with Abigail. Miller gives John Proctor a vice – lust. We are told in no unclear terms by Abigail that “You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!”. Recognising that Proctor has had an affair with his servant girl before the play began, the reader is shocked at the indication that perhaps nowhere in Salem is purely good. In fact, John goes on to tell Abigail that “I may think of you softly from time to time.” And that he “may have looked up” at her window since, declaring a longing for her, which makes us distrust him further. These flaws represent major concerns for the reader as we expect very different attributes to what Miller presents us with in these types of characters.
In conclusion, Act 1 sees Miller present us with a number of concerns, some quite obvious whilst others more subtle, that set the scene perfectly for the following Acts to come. Through a vivid use of language Miller identifies the flaws within each character whilst uncovering a general ignorance among the entire community of Salem. Whereas the men and women believe to be doing right, they are hypocritically evil in sentencing innocent people to death and this is perhaps the most important issue raised by the end of Act 1.