Winter Will Be Here Soon -- Study hard as finals approach...


 
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The Crucible - Witch Trials

 

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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