The Crucible deeply examines the how an individuals conscience reacts when exposed to a larger pool of uniform thought of a mob. The Crucible explores the horrors and tragedy related to McCarthyism. During the communist era, there were fears that Soviet ideologies were infiltrating into American institutions especially in the 1940s and 50s. Senator Joseph McCarthy used these prevailing espionage fears to attack anyone within and outside the government who was deemed sympathetic to communist ideologies. The suspects had to present themselves before the House of Un-American Activities Commission to present their defense against alleged treason. McCarthyism was later coined to refer to the labeling of subversion and treason allegations on individuals without proper evidential support ("Arthur MillerS THE CRUCIBLE | Teaching English Today").
The Salem witch trials represent a perfect example of the described McCarthyism scenario described above. The Crucible presents the premise that a person, once accused, had little or no chance of being acquitted owing to the erroneous irrational thinking of the courts and the masses alike. The play explores the harm related to the loss of integrity as a result of succumbing to social pressures. This is perfectly replayed in the case of Salem citizens who, having lost their sense of reasoning plunged ahead with the mob in the condemnation and persecution of the innocent.
Contexts of the Crucible
The Puritans was a political and religious party that traces its origins in England. It was vehemently opposed to the Catholic doctrine and was at loggerheads with the New Protestant Church of England for still following Catholic teachings. Growing tensions between Catholics and Protestants eventually led to the eruption of civil war in England which forced the Puritans to migrate to the United States, where they became more zealous of their religious and political beliefs.
The Puritans were an astutely patriarchal community where it was widely held that women should be subject to men. It was also believed that women had a higher likelihood of engaging in the devils schemes as they were inherently lustful. The close-knit community made it difficult to keep opinions and secrets from circulating; hearsays and opinions were widely deemed to be the truth. Girls were, from an early age taught and trained to attend to household chores, take care of their husbands and to rear children.
The growing population in a small piece of land was the perfect recipe for clashes and feuds between families and neighbors alike. These were further compounded with their fervent religious beliefs that it was sinful to plough on Sundays. As a result of this, the loss of crops, livestock or loved ones was construed to mean that God was unleashing his wrath on them ("Sparknotes: The Crucible: Themes, Motifs & Symbols").
Theme of empowerment
Millers main issue in The Crucible does not concern whether the accused were, in fact, witches; but rather the apparent belief by the court officials that they were actually witches. In any literary work, several themes are often explored. The Crucible prominently explores the theme of empowerment among a host of other themes. Miller fronts the premise that social structures in a society riddled with uncertainty and has no regards for the truth will ultimately crumble, exposing power to the weak and vulnerable in the society in a manner that they never imagined its possibility. Salem witch trials empower several women in the society who had been previously marginalized. This society is characterized by female insubordination to men where the women do not have much rights-they are subjected to work for rich people till they become old and can be married off and raise children. Abigail, for instance, was being used by John Proctor to satisfy his sexual hunger where he takes away her innocence when he commits adultery with her and ends the affair abruptly, arousing her jealousy. The instant thrust to power is vividly seen in the surrender of Tribute to Rev Parris. Her confession to witchcraft suddenly elevates her to a pious pedestal where she is no longer regarded as a sinner, but rather as someone with a new closer relationship with God. In this position of authority, she assumes a greater position over other white individuals to the extent that she could even name Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. Being deemed as having a closer relationship with God, the once insignificant slave girl now stands above other citizens in the Puritan society.
Abigail, after seeing the rise of Tibuta, uses the opportunity to elevate her hierarchy as well. She is now capable of not only protecting herself but also using the power of her words to crush any member of the community. She gains power over the other girls by use of threats and manipulation as well as taking advantage of their fear. In the play, Abigail did not have any killer or abusive traits, yet she takes advantage of the existing paranoia to assume power and protect herself ("The Crucible Essay").
In a society riddled with gaping power imbalances, the aggrieved people will seek for avenues to empower themselves and revert the state of affairs by employing various tactics, loopholes in religious beliefs being one of them. The Salem women, in particular, were oppressed by a dominantly patriarchal society and sought avenues to redeem themselves from this menace.
"Arthur MilleraS THE CRUCIBLE | Teaching English Today". Teachenglishtoday.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 May 2016.
"Sparknotes: The Crucible: Themes, Motifs & Symbols". Sparknotes.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 May 2016.
"The Crucible Essay". Scribd. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 May 2016.
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