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Discuss The Importance Of Female Characters In The Crucible And Snow Falling On Cedars. Compare The Ways They Are Presented.

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Assignment1: Discuss the importance of female characters in 'Snow Falling on Cedars,' and 'The Crucible.' Compare the ways in which they are presented.

In both, the novel, 'Snow Falling On Cedars,' and the play of 'The Crucible,' the strength of the female characters is detailed by their portrayals throughout the text, highlighting their importance to the narrative of their respective literature.

When we are first introduced to Abigail, we learn that she has been raised by her uncle, Parris, "a widower with no interest with children, or talent with them," and this coupled with Salem's Puritan society leads to her feeling repressed by her environment, and seeking to change her position and status in Salem. Her affair with John Proctor leads to conflict between Salem's expectations of her, and her cynicism towards their hypocrisy and the "lying lessons" of their society.

Hatsue is also torn between two sets of values during her youth and, like Abigail, this struggle is never fully reconciled. Hatsue feels repressed and confused because she is torn between the Japanese upbringing she has had, including her lessons with Mrs. Shigemura, and the attraction she feels toward the American culture; "her craving for existence and entertainment, for clothes, make-up, dances, movies." The reader learns this through the embedded narrative in Chapter 7, which provides the audience's first insight into the background detail of Hatsue's character, and therefore shows that her conflicting ideals will be important throughout the development of the narrative, and also to our understanding of Hatsue. She is therefore important in this respect, as it is through the readers' early introduction to this aspect of her character that the theme of conflicting values and cultures becomes apparent; this is suggestive to the reader of events and themes that may transpire later in the narrative, therefore maintaining their interest.

There are similarities between the communities of San Piedro and Salem, but their effects on the behaviour of the female characters differ significantly. For example, Salem is described in Arthur Miller's stage directions as a place where the "predilection for minding other people's business was time-honoured...and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness." It was also fiercely Puritan, and this aspect is expressed by the author as "a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies." As part of this strict religious government, it is likely that many of Salem's inhabitants felt repressed by its harsh restrictions and the way simple activities, such as dancing and reading, were regarded with suspicion. Abigail's reaction against the social context is indicative of this oppression; women were particularly marginalised in the patriarchal Puritan society, and were judged openly as inferior to men, and not permitted to speak in church. This is expressed further by the way Abigail laughs in church: an occurrence which is symbolic of her disrespect and revulsion towards Salem's hypocritical society, is viewed with suspicion and moral righteousness. This emphasises the restraints of the historical and social context, and so the audience can understand Abigail's discontent.

During the trials, Abigail acts as if in direct communication with God, in an apparently evangelistic way, and this immediately gains attention and respect from the religion-dominated justice system. This empowers her, and elevates her previously low status within Salem, to the extent that her word is enough to convict any of its inhabitants. Where society once repressed her, her actions gain her a crucial role within it, and she exploits this as much as possible.

Correspondingly, the community of San Piedro represses Hatsue, and this influences her behaviour within it. For example, the society is divided by racism, and this is shown first in the way the derogatory term "Jap," is utilised by the fishermen, and also by the coroner, Horace Whaley. This implies prejudice, tension and hostility on the part of the white American islanders towards the Japanese community, and through characters' testimonies and embedded narratives, or 'flashbacks,' Guterson develops this theme in detail throughout the novel. The setting of the trial is also significant to this, as it occurs over the anniversary of Pearl Harbour, and these historical implications heighten tension within the racially mixed community. The readers learns that people of Japanese descent are expected to sit at the back of the courtroom. Just as Abigail is seen as inferior because she is an orphaned, unmarried woman, the Japanese in San Piedro have an unofficial inferior status, and therefore this subtle segregation is seen as a social necessity. This isolation affects Hatsue, and during her childhood love affair with Ishmael, she is aware and fearful of the controversy that would be caused if her parents, as well as peers at school and wider society, discovered them; in their first visit to the cedar tree, Hatsue acknowledges this by saying "you're not Japanese. And I'm alone with you." Hatsue's secrecy about their meetings is indicative of this social context, and it is a contributing factor towards Hatsue's growing confusion, which leads to her break-up with Ishmael.

Both the main female characters in these texts become romantically involved at a young age, and this has dramatic consequences for both of them. This is achieved by Guterson in 'Snow Falling....' by the use of devices such as embedded narratives, whereas the narrative of 'The Crucible,' is more linear. This is important because the structure of the play is influenced by Abigail's actions, which are conveyed chronologically: Proctor's rejection of Abigail leads directly to her desire for revenge, which then escalates into the mass hysteria at the climax of the novel, reflecting the powerful influence over Salem she gains during the course of the narrative.

Abigail's involvement with John Proctor acts as an awakening for her, and she says "John Proctor...took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart." Their affair is the end of her innocence; she is viewed by John Proctor as an object of lust, and exclaims to him "I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near." When he terminates their affair she is resentful, as



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