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Depiction of Salem Witch Trials in The Crucible by Arthur Miller: Analytical Essay

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The world is just as unscrupulous as its people. Looking back, they are made aware of the haunting payoff of deceit that accompanies an attempt to try to “better” the world. The Crucible is one well-written play that develops the concept of flawed humans. In this play, Arthur Miller depicts the Salem Witch Trials and how they were wrongfully conducted under the purported “law.” The characters manipulated the whole society of the village into believing the drastic idea of witchcraft. Enemies were motivated to carry out their cynical plots and accusations to fulfill their suppressed fantasies. The government authorities focused on minorities and abused their power to clean up Salem’s image. These following actions brewed an outbreak of hysteria. The constant cycle of accusations made it unclear who to believe. All of the following issues: manipulation, abuse of power, and hysteria were justified by the Salemites’ flawed morals, which led them to commit several ruthless acts. The Salem Witch Trials not only prove that cannot trust people, but that the world has been and always will be corrupt. The Crucible authored by Arthur Miller, uncovers the truth about Salem; how the village evoked the Devil through abuse of power, manipulation, and hysteria, as well as insight into the Salemites’ flawed morals and merciless motives.

To start off, the play, heavily influenced by the Salem Witch Trials, was caused by the efforts of manipulation. Manipulation evolved from the subconscious minds of the characters, even if they were not doing this on purpose. Their deep rivalries allowed them to accuse each other. To start off, Abigail stabbed herself in order to accuse Elizabeth Proctor. According to the play, ““Mary Warren: Conjure me? Why no, sir, I am entirely myself I think. Let you ask Susanna Walcott— she saw me sewin’ it in court. Or better still: Ask Abby, Abby sat beside me when I made it” (Miller 76). Dinsticly, the readers are shown the way Abigail’s envy made her manipulate Mary Warren’s doll as well as Goody Proctor. Abigail had a clear motive, which caused her to manipulate the village of Salem (Popkin). Abigail had an affair with John Proctor, who was tied in marriage to Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail wanted John for herself therefore she accused all in her path to “true” love. So, when she saw Mary Warren making a doll, she stabbed herself where the needle was located. To analyze further, there were several underlying issues that motivated the Salemites to accuse their own (Popkin). These motives were a cause of the effect: manipulation.

Additionally, Abigail did not want to be accused of anti-Puritan crimes, so she accused several Salem women. Puritan life was very strict and did not allow any engagement in fun. Abigail danced and acted as a cult with her friends, therefore she could not possibly tell the only truth. In the text it states, ““Abigail: I want to open myself! They turn to her startled. She is enraptured, as though in a pearly light. I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; 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!” (Miller 48). Accordingly, Abigail did not want to tell her truth, so she deceived everyone. By accusing women like Sarah Good, Goody Osburn, and Bridget Bishop, she was able to use witchcraft as a way to get rid of her enemies or disliked neighbors. The Salemites were so blinded by their religion that they did not see the devil was Abigail. Not only did she avoid a whipping or punishment but she also was favored in court because children do not lie. Salemites had a fear of witches and were never exposed to the “real world” (Decter). The play showed the horrors of heroic resistance to a society indulged in witchcraft, leading to their ruin (Penn State University Press). The village of Salem was fueled by Abigail’s personal and deep set motives, which lead them to their own reputational ruin. Undoubtedly, manipulation was the major factor behind the downfall of Salem and its Puritan followers.

Also, the people of Salem used their malicious motives to hang their own, not the widely spread idea of witchcraft. Salemites faced several feuds against each other regarding territories, power, and law. Based on the evidence provided, “Proctor and Parris now engage in just such a dispute, showing us their own personal hostility and helpfully bringing in some additional exposition concerning the land war, the rivalry over ministerial appointments, and the issue of Parris’s salary. These are the real, underlying issues that motivate the men of Salem” (Popkin 142). Certainly, religious and land quarrels caused rivalries and Salemites began to display hatred against each other. For example, John Proctor and Parris continuously argued over ministerial appointments. Then, John Proctor was accused by the court. To further analyze, the accused were not favored, therefore the high class people received the most power. They received the most power because of the manipulation they used against the less fortunate. Thomas Putnam owned the majority of the land in Salem, therefore he was never accused and his opinion was very significant. Obviously, the Salemites’ rationales were significantly valued in the court’s rulings. Manipulation was key in accusing.

Moving on, abuse of power was also a factor of the hangings of several people. Judge Danforth wanted to show the Salemites that he was powerful, but he used the power in a wrong way. In the informative text it says, “Man’s attitude is shaped by the contemporary society which worships success, power and money” (Ray 75). Without doubt, Danforth was influenced by success, power, and money. He was the judge of a whole village; similar to a president of a country. He wanted to prove that he was not a fraud and did not falter on his part. While striving for power, he abused it and hurt the lives of innocent people and their families. Danforth did not want people to doubt his power, so he continued accusing. Instead, he hanged people who were actually pure and innocent.

In addition, Proctor was forced to confess in order to earn his life. Danforth agreed to give Proctor his life back if he signed a confession accusing his friends. After Proctor signed the confession he realized this was the wrong thing to do. Proctor states that he has already confessed and he does not need his name up on the church doors for everyone to see. He only has one name and it does not need to have a bad reputation in the village (Miller). To further analyze this evidence, Proctor has confessed he has seen several of his friends and neighbors with the Devil. If John Proctor signed the confession, Danforth would come out to be the “hero” of Salem. He abused his power to earn truthful confessions and did not receive them the right way. The Salem Witch Trials have been heavily compared to the McCarthyism of the 1950s. McCarthyism was a political phenomenon (Decter). The Salem Witch Trials also involved politics and how leaders focused on succeeding and being politically supreme to their own people. Danforth had the power to save the insane minds of Salemites but instead he followed them along.

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Moreover, Danforth was guilty of hanging people. He wanted to clear his conscience, so he abused his power. In the article it says, “The Crucible, which draws a parallel between the Salem witch hunts of 1692 and the Communist hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, explores the effects of fear and guilt. It pits individual conscience against entrenched authority” (American Bar Association 76). It should be noted that Salem was in hysteria because of the actions of the deceitful girls. As soon as Abigail ran away because of her own fears, Danforth realized he hanged too many innocent people. He did not own up to his actions and saved himself by hanging even more people after. The confession from John Proctor saved his life and his career. The trials were wild, not logical and were offenses made against justice (Popkin). This proves that Danforth used his power in the wrong way and ruined Salem’s pure, innocent reputation.

Consequently, the factors of manipulation and abuse of power created an epidemic of hysteria. People were frightened by the horrors of witchcraft and accused one another to stop the cycle. Instead, they continued the cycle of hangings. Hale stated that orphans and animals were wandering around the village with nowhere to go. Orphans lost their parents to accusations and animals were everywhere (Miller). Witchcraft led everyone to think that their neighbors may be cursed. The Salmites’ fear was powerful and had the strength to get rid of the negative within them. The Puritans of Salem were never exposed to the diabolical connotations of the world, which caused them to indulge in fear.

Similarly, the Communist scare of the 1950s was compared to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Both involved hysteria and the psychological powers of a person. A person could manipulate, fear, or abuse. Henry Popkin stated, “Also, the witchcraft scare was violent, alarming, and brief, like an epidemic and, again, like the Communist scare of the 1950s” (140). Evidently, the witchcraft scare presented in Salem was similar to the Communist scare in many ways. Both caused people to fear one another and turn each other in. Guilt and fear emerged from the deceitful girls as they were pressured into telling the “truth” and that is how the hysteria affected most Salemites (Calarco). The people of Salem have never seen evil so the fear made an appearance rapidly and unmanageably.

Along with the information above, the social and economic lives of Salemites led them to turn against each other. The result of this was hysteria. Accordingly, “He is caught in a trap compounded of economic, social, and psychological forces and is ultimately destroyed but not defeated” (Ray 75). Plainly, social and economic changes and statuses drive a person’s psychology. Salemites manipulated and abused their privileges to destroy their enemies. When they finally were done accusing, they developed fear that witches and wizards were all around them. For example, John Proctor did not respect Reverend Parris, so Parris worked very hard to get him accused. People did not want their reputations ruined as well as their status of class, so they accused the ones who would be hard to believe.

Apart from this, the people of Salem used the following factors to justify their flawed morals and merciless motives. Salem invited the Devil into their village and evoked its power. Starting off, the girls feared punishment for their anti-Purian crimes, so they manipulated and lied. Their anti-Puritan crimes such as dancing were their ruthless motives provoking them to accuse everyone but themselves. On the word of Joseph N. Calarco, “Layers of fear and guilt emerged from the performances, moving inevitably towards the final explosion of confessions by Titiuba and the children” (358). Unmistakably, the children as well as Tituba were pressured into confessing in order to avoid destroying themselves. Something was wrong in Salem so the Salemites searched it out. Instead they stepped upon witchcraft and went along with it. Salemites were like pure children; who have never experienced sin and evil. Abigail was jealous of Elizabeth Proctor because she was the one who John loved. Her motive led to the motive of the girls who committed crimes with her. Then, Tituba confessed and the constant cycle of accusations began. Their motives were the first steps to their path of bringing the Devil to innocent Salem.

Furthermore, the Salemites justified their flawed religious morals by exploiting people like John Proctor: who saw the world as it really is. According to the text, “… the bigotry of religious fundamentalists and communities torn apart by accusations of child abuse” (Decter 56). Needless to say, religious views and opinions were torn apart because of the accusations of child abuse. In the Puritan religion children were considered holy and could never deceive the adults. Religion was used as a moral and motive to justify the hangings of people. The people who were hanged were the only ones correct and thought quite logically. They believed the accused were with the Devil, meaning they needed to be hanged. The Puritans of Salem were close minded, leaving flawed morals to justify their actions. It was very clear that the Salemites were looking for trouble they could solve. They wanted to be a role model village for other villages, by solving all issues quickly and perfectly. Instead, this led to their very own ruin.

Finally, their flawed motives such as personal sin, sexual infidelity, and revenge were justified by witchcraft which was manipulated. Instead of correctly justifying confessions and accusations, they justified their own morals and motives. In the article it says, “However, in the ensuing years, audiences have been drawn to its story of personal sin and guilt, sexual infidelity, revenge, religious mania, and politics” (Penn State University Press). Visibly, Abigail used her motive, jealousy and revenge to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchery. Meaning she did not possess good morals, like the average Puritan was supposed to. John was accused of lechery, meaning his morals were flawed as well. If John committed adultery, a young teenage girl should be more trusted, according to the Salem court.

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Depiction of Salem Witch Trials in The Crucible by Arthur Miller: Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
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