Representation of Corruption as a Major Part of Society in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’

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Acceptance and being well liked are basic human needs. Naturally, when given a large platform, leaders have dominant views, in turn, creating polarizing opinions. Corruption is innate, humans are bound to make errors. Gaining authority and influence releases us from the restraints of societal pressure. It forces leaders to evaluate a situation and make a judgment. Although, with this much responsibility it becomes effortless to be erratic. As Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton, 1897). Humans are guaranteed to make mistakes in every field. Even the simplistic nature of negligence can cause mass destruction.

Although corruption may be influenced by a lack of funds financially or by personal requirements, corruption cannot be escaped. It eventually leads to violation of human rights or essential needs. Corruption is deep-rooted anger placed in the hands of the most authoritarian leaders in the community. Corruption has infiltrated society since the First Dynasty in ancient Egypt. Literature mimics the injustice seen in social norms and beliefs. Economist, Ludwig von Mises, states: “There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt or vial men” (1944, Mises). People manipulate power to suit individual needs and not the decision most beneficial for the community. Modern literature imitates real life and exploits the corruption and deceit seen universally. Two texts that convey this principle are Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’.

Corruption is everywhere, it is unavoidable, from large cooperation’s to national governments, and rural areas immorality is inescapable. Pastoral areas are no exception. ‘Jasper Jones’ follows a tale of a small rural town in Australia. Jasper Jones, the town rebel, calls for Charlie, the protagonist, for assistance after they discover a body of Laura Wishart, a missing girl. As Corrigan is a small town, citizens bestow trust within one another, especially a commanding authority figure like Pete Wishart. Pete Wishart is the president and a police officer of Corrigan. Pete seems like the flawless, faultless father who raises his two daughters with ease. Whilst simultaneously providing justice and arresting criminals supplying a safe, warm environment to the people of Corrigan. Ironically, Pete is abusive to Laura and Eliza Wishart, his daughters. His abuse to Laura was extremely severe. “He wasn’t even sorry. He had no love in him… he raised his hand and hit her, hard, in the face, which he’d never done. He knocked her down to shut her up. And he swung again, twice, right at the core of her, right where the trouble was” (Craig Silvey, 2009, page 347). His unscrupulous actions reflect the manipulation of power that he has committed. It is extremely hypocritical that a police officer and a leader abuses his power. When provided with an opportunity to abuse power, humans will use it. This is further supported by Charlie investigating Eliza’s motivations: “I have a suspicion that Eliza might be less concerned with what’s right, less concerned about uncovering the truth, than she is about ensuring that she and Jasper Jones, and maybe her father too, are meted out the penance that she feels they each deserve” (Craig Silvey, 2009, p.326). Charlie believes that Eliza is not concerned about her moral obligations but, more concerned with the relationship between her father and Jasper. This enforces the idea that when given power, humans find difficulty in keeping good-willed intentions. Pete has found power in a small rural town and abused it. The text mirrors a startling real-life reality, venality unpreventable. Human nature is innately corrupt.

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Corruption thrives in fear. In the 17th century, fear was notably present. Witchcraft was one of the most feared ideas at the time. In the play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller, accusations of witchcraft regarding a local group of girls are rumored. Deputy Governor Danforth refuses to revoke John Proctor’s death penalty, willing to risk justice to gain power. “You are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it” (Arthur Miller, 1953, pg. 107). Danforth uses fear to intimidate. People in power commonly use intimidation to achieve what they want as an individual. The carelessness for the community is clear as Danforth uses his power to scare and intimidate Mary. Mary must lie in the situation as the deputy governor has placed her in an uncomfortable position. It is obvious that Danforth does not care for truth but rather, his reputation and power. Corruption is a common theme with Deputy Governor Danforth: “There is a prodigious fear of this court in the country” (Arthur Miller, 1953, pg. 102). The town knew the corruption and dishonesty taking place in the court. Hale previously through the story, was seeking out problems with witchcraft, he now comes to realize the problem lies with the court. He has stated that there is an incredible fear of the court. This is due to the known corruption present in the town. Although it is known that there is dishonesty in the legal system, the town truly believes that there is witchcraft in the town. However, the community ignores the distress regarding the court and instead, focuses on the allegations of witchcraft, further enforcing the idea of deceit.

In both these texts, it is shown that corruption is a major part of society. Both Danforth and Wishart were bound to be corrupt due to the amount of power they were both provided. These characters share similarities in personality. When Danforth is talking to Francis Nurse, Danforth states that the beliefs condemning innocent people to death is doing the will of God. This diluted conviction reads: “You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time – we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it” (Arthur Millar, 1953, Chapter 3). The lack of self-awareness Danforth has is close to comedic. It is expected that the most influential person in the town values justice and equality. However, it is quite the opposite. When Charlie is thinking about Jasper after the fire he said: “Jasper Jones fell out of this world and nobody noticed. Nobody cared” (Craig Silvey, 2009, pg. 400). This displays that the town is negligent. No one cared about Jasper because it was deemed, he was a criminal. The corrupt nature of both these towns is inherent. Doing nothing when innocent people are framed is corruption. When provided with the volume of power and success it is no surprise that people use it for wicked things. This has been seen throughout history. A modern example is the #MeToo movement. With highly influential men accused of heinous crimes. They have abused their power and taken advantage of vulnerable individuals. Many real-life examples share similar traits to Danforth and Wishart. A common denominator being power. Power is seen in every aspect of life and is too commonly misused. Corruption is innate when given power. It is inescapable, the most morally just people can be persuaded to do wrong.

Power is often abused. It can begin with white lies and moral ambiguity and lead to perjury and corruption. Corruption is seen everywhere. Innately, humans are corrupt, and morals can be influenced and converted. When lies become too imaginative, they can be intense and hysterical. Moral uncertainty can become addictive. Corruption, power, and fear are all similar and all return a dire result when misused. Power can destroy relationships. Power can destroy peace. Power will lead to depravity.

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Representation of Corruption as a Major Part of Society in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from
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Representation of Corruption as a Major Part of Society in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2024].
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