"The True Devils in Salem" in Arthur Miller's The Crucible Term Paper

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English - The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The True Devils in Salem

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the madness of the Salem witch trials

is explored in great detail. There are many theories as to why the

witch trials came about, the most popular of which is the girls'

suppressed childhoods. However, there were other factors as well, such

as Abigail Williams' affair with John Proctor, the secret grudges that

neighbors held against each other, and the physical and economic

differences between the citizens of Salem Village.

From a historical viewpoint, it is known that young girls in colonial

Massachusetts were given little or no freedom to act like children.

They were expected to walk straight, arms by their sides, eyes slightly

downcast, and their mouths were to be shut unless otherwise asked to

speak. It is not surprising that the girls would find this type of

lifestyle very constricting. To rebel against it, they played pranks,

such as dancing in the woods, listening to slaves' magic stories and

pretending that other villagers were bewitching them. The Crucible

starts after the girls in the village have been caught dancing in the

woods. As one of them falls sick, rumors start to fly that there is

witchcraft going on in the woods, and that the sick girl is bewitched.

Once the girls talk to each other, they become more and more frightened

of being accused as witches, so Abigail starts accusing others of

practicing witchcraft. The other girls all join in so that the blame

will not be placed on them. In The Crucible, Abigail starts the

accusations by saying, "I go back to Jesus; I kiss his hand. I saw Sarah

Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget

Bishop with the Devil!" Another girl, Betty, continues the cry with, "I

saw George Jacobs with the Devil! I saw Goody Howe with the Devil!"

>From here on, the accusations grow and grow until the jails overflow

with accused witches. It must have given them an incredible sense of

power when the whole town of Salem listened to their words and believed

each and every accusation. After all, children were to be seen and not

heard in Puritan society, and the newfound attention was probably

overwhelming. In Act Three of The Crucible, the girls were called

before the judges to defend themselves against the claims that they were

only acting. To prove their innocence, Abigail led the other girls in a

chilling scene. Abby acted as if Mary Warren sent her spirit up to the

rafters and began to talk to the spirit. "Oh Mary, this is a black art

to change your shape. No, I cannot, I cannot stop my mouth; it's God's

work I do." The other girls all stared at the rafters in horror and

began to repeat everything they heard. Finally, the girls' hysterics

caused Mary Warren to accuse John Proctor of witchcraft. Once the scam

started, it was too late to stop, and the snowballing effect of wild

accusations soon resulted in the hanging of many innocents.

After the wave of accusations began, grudges began to surface in the

community. Small slights were made out to be witchcraft, and bad

business deals were blamed on witchery. Two characters in The Crucible,

Giles Corey and Thomas Putnam, argue early on about a plot of land.

Corey claims that he bought it from Goody Nurse but Putnam says he owns

it, and Goody Nurse had no right to sell it. Later, when Putnam's

daughter accuses George Jacobs of witchery, Corey claims that Putnam

only wants Jacobs' land. Giles says, "If Jacobs hangs for a witch he

forfeit up his property - that's law! And there is none but Putnam with

the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for

their land!" Others also had hidden motives for accusing their

neighbors. Once the accusations began, everyone had a reason to accuse

someone else which is why the hangings got so out of hand. The wave of

accusations can be likened to mass hysteria, in which the people

involved are so caught up that they start having delusions of neighbors

out to do them harm. One of the main accusers, Abigail Williams, had an

ulterior motive for accusing Elizabeth Proctor. In The Crucible,

Abigail believed that if she got rid of Goody Proctor, then John

Proctor, her husband, would turn to Abby. John Proctor had an affair

with Abigail, but for him it was just lust, while Abigail believed it to

be true love. She told John that he loves her, and once she destroys

Elizabeth, they will be free to love one another. John is horrified at

this, but can do nothing to convince Abigail that he is not in love with

her. Because of Abigail's twisted plot to secure John for herself,

Elizabeth is arrested. It is the hidden motives behind the accusations

that fan the flames of the Salem witch trials.

To get the complete picture of the causes behind the witch trials, you

must look at the physical reasons as well. Two historians, Paul Boyer

and Stephen Nissenbaum, drew a map of Salem Village and plotted the

accusers, the defendants, and the accused witches. An interesting

picture arose when a line was drawn dividing the town into east and

west. It became clear that nearly all the accusers lived on the west

side, and almost all the defenders and accused witches lived on the east

side. To determine the cause of the east-west split, the historians

examined many disputes, chief among them being the choice of ministers.

Once Salem Village was granted the right to have its own meeting house,

quarrels arose over who would preach in the pulpit. There were four

ministers between the time period of when the meeting house was built

and the end of the witch trials. The arguments over ministers soon

became a power struggle. There were two factions that arose during this

dispute, and it was noted that one group supported two ministers while

the other group supported the other two ministers. Each group wanted to

prove its influence by choosing a minister and making him the spiritual

guide to Salem Village. The two groups were found to coincide closely

with the east-west division.

When the economical divisions of the village were examined, it was found

that in general the western citizens of Salem Village lived an agrarian

lifestyle and were hard-pressed economically. The land on the western

side was well-suited to farming and grazing. By contrast, the villagers

on the east side were mainly merchants and lived fairly opulently. The

road to Salem Town traveled through the east side of Salem Village.

Many innkeepers and tavern owners lived on this road and made a good

profit off all the travelers. Tension often arose between the two

groups because of their vastly different lifestyles.

It is not difficult to see why a catastrophe such as the Salem witch

trials occurred. Once one accusation was made, it was easy to release

all the buried suspicions and hatred into a wave of madness. The

Crucible simplifies the cause to make for a better story, but in reality

the reasons for the witch craft accusations were much more complex. The

reasons behind the accusations would result in many more quarrels over

the years, but none as interesting or as horrifying as the Salem witch

trials. In such a straight-laced Puritan society, there lived many

people with hidden darkness in their hearts, and the Salem witch trials

exposed and magnified the consequences of those black desires.

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the madness of the Salem witch trials

is explored in great detail. There are many theories as to why the

witch trials came about, the most popular of which is the girls'

suppressed childhoods. However, there were other factors as well, such

as Abigail Williams' affair with John Proctor, the secret grudges that

neighbors held against each other, and the physical and economic

differences between the citizens of Salem Village.

From a historical viewpoint, it is known that young girls in colonial

Massachusetts were given little or no freedom to act like children.

They were expected to walk straight, arms by their sides, eyes slightly

downcast, and their mouths were to be shut unless otherwise asked to

speak. It is not surprising that the girls would find this type of

lifestyle very constricting. To rebel against it, they played pranks,

such as dancing in the woods, listening to slaves' magic stories and

pretending that other villagers were bewitching them. The Crucible

starts after the girls in the village have been caught dancing in the

woods. As one of them falls sick, rumors start to fly that there is

witchcraft going on in the woods, and that the sick girl is bewitched.

Once the girls talk to each other, they become more and more frightened

of being accused as witches, so Abigail starts accusing others of

practicing witchcraft. The other girls all join in so that the blame

will not be placed on them. In The Crucible, Abigail starts the

accusations by saying, "I go back to Jesus; I kiss his hand. I saw Sarah

Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget

Bishop with the Devil!" Another girl, Betty, continues the cry with, "I

saw George Jacobs with the Devil! I saw Goody Howe with the Devil!"

>From here on, the accusations grow and grow until the jails overflow

with accused witches. It must have given them an incredible sense of

power when the whole town of Salem listened to their words and believed

each and every accusation. After all, children were to be seen and not

heard in Puritan society, and the newfound attention was probably

overwhelming. In Act Three of The Crucible, the girls were called

before the judges to defend themselves against the claims that they were

only acting. To prove their innocence, Abigail led the other girls in a

chilling scene. Abby acted as if Mary Warren sent her spirit up to the

rafters and began to talk to the spirit. "Oh Mary, this is a black art

to change your shape. No, I cannot, I cannot stop my mouth; it's God's

work I do." The other girls all stared at the rafters in horror and

began to repeat everything they heard. Finally, the girls' hysterics

caused Mary Warren to accuse John Proctor of witchcraft. Once the scam

started, it was too late to stop, and the snowballing effect of wild

accusations soon resulted in the hanging of many innocents.

After the wave of accusations began, grudges began to surface in the

community. Small slights were made out to be witchcraft, and bad

business deals were blamed on witchery. Two characters in The Crucible,

Giles Corey and Thomas Putnam, argue early on about a plot of land.

Corey claims that he bought it from Goody Nurse but Putnam says he owns

it, and Goody Nurse had no right to sell it. Later, when Putnam's

daughter accuses George Jacobs of witchery, Corey claims that Putnam

only wants Jacobs' land. Giles says, "If Jacobs hangs for a witch he

forfeit up his property - that's law! And there is none but Putnam with

the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for

their land!" Others also had hidden motives for accusing their

neighbors. Once the accusations began, everyone had a reason to accuse

someone else which is why the hangings got so out of hand. The wave of

accusations can be likened to mass hysteria, in which the people

involved are so caught up that they start having delusions of neighbors

out to do them harm. One of the main accusers, Abigail Williams, had an

ulterior motive for accusing Elizabeth Proctor. In The Crucible,

Abigail believed that if she got rid of Goody Proctor, then John

Proctor, her husband, would turn to Abby. John Proctor had an affair

with Abigail, but for him it was just lust, while Abigail believed it to

be true love. She told John that he loves her, and once she destroys

Elizabeth, they will be free to love one another. John is horrified at

this, but can do nothing to convince Abigail that he is not in love with

her. Because of Abigail's twisted plot to secure John for herself,

Elizabeth is arrested. It is the hidden motives behind the accusations

that fan the flames of the Salem witch trials.

To get the complete picture of the causes behind the witch trials, you

must look at the physical reasons as well. Two historians, Paul Boyer

and Stephen Nissenbaum, drew a map of Salem Village and plotted the

accusers, the defendants, and the accused witches. An interesting

picture arose when a line was drawn dividing the town into east and

west. It became clear that nearly all the accusers lived on the west

side, and almost all the defenders and accused witches lived on the east

side. To determine the cause of the east-west split, the historians

examined many disputes, chief among them being the choice of ministers.

Once Salem Village was granted the right to have its own meeting house,

quarrels arose over who would preach in the pulpit. There were four

ministers between the time period of when the meeting house was built

and the end of the witch trials. The arguments over ministers soon

became a power struggle. There were two factions that arose during this

dispute, and it was noted that one group supported two ministers while

the other group supported the other two ministers. Each group wanted to

prove its influence by choosing a minister and making him the spiritual

guide to Salem Village. The two groups were found to coincide closely

with the east-west division.

When the economical divisions of the village were examined, it was found

that in general the western citizens of Salem Village lived an agrarian

lifestyle and were hard-pressed economically. The land on the western

side was well-suited to farming and grazing. By contrast, the villagers

on the east side were mainly merchants and lived fairly opulently. The

road to Salem Town traveled through the east side of Salem Village.

Many innkeepers and tavern owners lived on this road and made a good

profit off all the travelers. Tension often arose between the two

groups because of their vastly different lifestyles.

It is not difficult to see why a catastrophe such as the Salem witch

trials occurred. Once one accusation was made, it was easy to release

all the buried suspicions and hatred into a wave of madness. The

Crucible simplifies the cause to make for a better story, but in reality

the reasons for the witch craft accusations were much more complex. The

reasons behind the accusations would result in many more quarrels over

the years, but none as interesting or as horrifying as the Salem witch

trials. In such a straight-laced Puritan society, there lived many

people with hidden darkness in their hearts, and the Salem witch trials

exposed and magnified the consequences of those black desires.

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