‘Societies often tend to suppress individual freedom in order to maintain social order.’Discuss how this idea is highlighted in Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’

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Andrew Grindley

Assignment 2

The Crucible

'Societies often tend to suppress individual freedom in order to maintain social order.'

Discuss how this idea is highlighted in Arthur Miller's play 'The Crucible'

Arthur Miller was a playwright who dealt with many issues and themes. His play 'The Crucible' involves a past parallel of McCarthyism in the form of the Salem Witch Trials. McCarthyism came about when a politician named Joseph McCarthy tried to cover up his shaping of an anticommunist policy by using scapegoats. In this play, a girl named Abigail accused almost the whole town of witchcraft. This happened because in her own cunning way she turned the accusation against her, created when some girls in the town becoming ill, and used a scapegoat to avoid being hanged. She had had an affair with a local towns-person, John Proctor.

The play 'The Crucible' deals with many issues and themes relevant both then and now. Persecution and power are probably the most influential. Persecution, by definition, is the subjecting of a group of people to cruel or unfair treatment, for example because of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs. In 'The Crucible' all of the prisoners were persecuted by torture i.e. stoning, or by force i.e. being put in jail. Righteousness is a thing wanted by many humans, mainly religious ones, as they want to be seen as good in the eyes of their God. This can sometimes lead to the persecution and torture of others in order to do something seen as righteous. In 'The Crucible' the whole role of persecution in the trials raises the debate of human cruelty in the name of righteousness. As the persecution of the prisoners is not righteous in itself, the goal it is set out to achieve is.

People's minds work today as they did then. While they carried out hunts for witches to evict them from society, we today 'witch hunt' for paedophiles and terrorists to exclude them. We may think it is radical today to hunt down and kill people just because of what a culture thinks but we carry on doing it to a lesser extent today. The search to uncover paedophiles is a case where people want to know who the paedophiles are in order to avoid them and even hurt them and punish them for what they have done and to maintain a social order. Witchcraft is not a bad practice but the people back then saw it as Satanism although it was not. It was conceived from the fact that illustrations of the Wicca god were found, who had horns, and bared a strong resemblance to the Christian view of Satan. That is why which craft was frowned upon, and people were hunted down in order to stop public outrage.

Wise people of the day, such as Elizabeth Proctor and Reverend Hale, saw the absurdity of the 'witch hunts'. They did not want to play a part in a system where if you confessed to being a witch, which was feared, you were set free; and if you claimed to be innocent, you were killed unnecessarily.

Among many others, these are the main sins committed in the play in this so-called holy society. Throughout the play, Abigail Williams had a hatred for Elizabeth Proctor, for she got to keep John. When Abigail realised that she held the power to destroy a person she quickly accused Elizabeth of being a witch, so she could have John for herself. However, John did not want to be with Abigail and so she ran away to avoid embarrassment and a revolt against her accusations. The innocent people who were accused of witchcraft had an obvious hatred for Abigail and the girls, as they had sentenced them to death.
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Abigail's accusation of Elizabeth Proctor stemmed from the affair she had had with her husband. This showed John Proctors lack of self will with lust at the start, which he became to fear later. He feared that if he lusted after Abigail again he would have to stay with her and lose his wife and his clean name. Also he was disgusted with Abigail's accusations in court and was disgraced that he even slept with her. Since Reverend Parris was appointed in Salem, he had done nothing but spend the collection on greedy things such as golden candlesticks. ...

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