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The Consequences Of Society'S Irrationality, As Seen In The Crucible

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The late seventeenth century marked the beginning of an event widely known today as the Salem Witch Trials, the exact time in which the Crucible takes place. As with any conflict, people have sought to determine a single cause for the event. They are most quick to accuse the characters John Proctor and Abigail Williams - the two together for having an illicit affair; Abigail, for acting on her feelings of desire and seeking to eliminate John's wife, Elizabeth Proctor, by any means necessary, even using the witch trials as an opportunity to have her accused and hanged; and John, for not exposing Abigail as a fraud sooner, in order to keep his secret for which he is ashamed of himself and to keep his good name from being ruined. Others, such as Deputy Governor Danforth, are blamed for allowing the hangings to continue, because of his refusal to admit that he was publicly deceived by a group of girls, and Thomas Putnam for using the trials to express his feelings of persecution and undeserved failure and as a means for revenge. However, it is not these individuals who are solely to blame, for that is an oversimplification of the matter. The blame truly lies on society for its standards and the effect those standards have on the people affiliated with the trials.

Firstly, the people's desire for everyone to conform to the accepted or conventional social mores allowed for the ease with which seemingly different individuals could be accused of witchcraft. Among the first accused was Tituba, a slave of whose ethnicity was different from the Puritans and whose skin color was commonly thought to be the skin color of the Devil; these factors alone were enough to make her an obvious target for accusations. Other victims of the accusations include pariahs such as Martha Corey, a suspicious figure because of book reading inexplicably prevents Giles Corey from praying and because of the fact that every pig she had sold to one man died; and Sarah Good, an old beggar who was convicted of witchcraft, because it was believed that her mutterings after each failed attempt to obtain food were curses; to name a few. Had the people been less suspicious and more accepting of those who were different for insignificant reasons, there would have been no need to accuse anyone of foul acts such as witchcraft, thus preventing unnecessary deaths.

Furthermore, religion's complete governance over Puritan life (which extends itself to politics) and the acceptance of the idea that all unnatural phenomena can be explained in terms of the supernatural and otherworldly facilitated the indictments and virtually ensured that the defendants would be found guilty. Spectral evidence, testimony that the accused witch's spirit appeared to the witness in a dream or vision, was admitted during the trials despite being difficult, if not impossible, to prove. This allowed the "bewitched" girls to testify with more credence and more than compensated for the girls' lack of physical testimony. It is clear that most residents, even the court officials, of Salem believed the girls when they made these claims, as was the case when Ezekiel Cheever and the others believed Abigail, when in Act II, she claimed that Goody Proctor stuck a needle in her abdomen using a poppet (74):

Hale: Why? What meanin' has it?

Cheever: ... Abigail Williams, sir ... Stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, [Reverend Parris] draw a needle out ... She testify it were your wife's familiar spirit pushed it in.




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