Essay : Salem Essay, Research Paper
ESSAY : SALEM
In 1692 in Salem Massachusetts a horrible chain of events occurred. A massive witch hunt began and a tidal wave of fear and suspicion swept over the tight knit Puritan town of Salem. A small group of girls began accusing the townspeople of witchcraft and the majority of the town believed these claims and full trials were held. If the accused victims did not confess to committing witchcraft it was more than likely that they would be put to death, hung in front of the town. Arthur Miller portrays this event in his novel The Crucible. The theme of Authority and Power is vital in The Crucible because of the abuses of power, the need for control and the absolute belief in authority figures lead to the witch hunt.
Throughout the witch hunt the abuses of power are prevalent. The abuse was broad spectrum and everyone from the accusing girls to the judge are involved. Abigail Williams is the leader of the girls. She begins this charade in order to save herself and the other girls from the punishment that they would have been handed down for them dancing in the woods. Abigail being a conniving girl sees the opportunity to save herself and seek revenge on people from the town who she feels “hate her and are trying to blacken her name in the community”(p.24 ). Abigail forces the other girls to go along with her plan by threatening them and forcing them to follow her “?either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you ?”(p.20). Together the girls begin to destroy what was once a close community. Abigail is not alone in the abuses of power.
The judge, Danforth has fallen under the girls spell and believes in them completely. Since he believes that the girls are right and decides that there is no way and accused person could actually be innocent. Due to this and judge Danforths ego he sends many people to their deaths still claiming innocence. Not only does Danforth refuse to hear opposition to the existence of witchcraft he creates the front that anyone who doubts that witchcraft is in Salem is trying to undermine the court (p. ). However it is apparent that he just does not want his authority to be questioned or his reputation tarnished. Danforth and Abigail are able to accomplish this because Rev. Parris is behind them. He is the person who much of the town looks up to. Since he was a leading voice for the presence of witchcraft his beliefs give Abigail and Danforth more credibility and power.
Along with power comes control. The whole town of Salem is trying to remain in control against the threat of witchcraft. Certain key characters are especially trying to do this. Foremost is Abigail Williams. She needs to remain in control to save herself from punishment and public disgrace. To stay in control Abigail stops at nothing. She lies constantly, accusing anyone who threatens the powerful grip she has on the paralyzed community. Her lies have lead to the arrival of judge Danforth. He tries to take control the chaotic village and gains the peoples trust and support by following what Abigail and the girls say. However Danforth believes Abigail only to a certain extent. He had his doubts about the accusations but realized that without the girls testimony which had convinced the town there was no case. Therefore no need for him in Salem. Danforth allows the power and control he has gained to swell his already large ego which then blinds him to the truth. He becomes so sure of himself that he decides that their is no possible way that the accused are innocent and states that anyone who tries to save the accused must “be trying to undermine the court”(p.90). This conveniently helps him in maintaining his control. Without any allowed opposition he is not doubted and is able to decide what is true. All the while disregarding facts which may have helped the accused and shown the real truth of the matter. Even if by chance evidence was heard Danforth always turned it around to benefit himself and made sure that his reputation stayed in tact. This occurred especially when Giles, Francis and Proctor tried to save their wives. Danforth used his power to arrest the friends who signed the petition which said that these women were good and Christian. This made Giles afraid to give up his source in his claim against Proctor and lead to him being arrested and held in contempt of court until he answered Danforths question (p.98). Danforth has made himself the head authority of the town and he relishes in this power feeling that he deserves it.
However Danforth did not take control on their own. The control that the authority figures posses can be attributed to the absolute belief that community had in them. The town immediately believes that witchcraft exists because Rev. Parris seems to believe it and has gone so far as to call in an expert on witchcraft, Rev. Hale. When Rev. Hale arrived with the many “books that were weighted with authority” the town believed that he had all the answers (p.36). Both these men are ministers and in the eyes of a puritan society makes them closer to God and the appointed leaders of the group. Since both these well respected men believed the girls the town felt that the existence of witchcraft must be true. When Danforth arrives his reputation proceeds him and the town has respect for him without even meeting him. Once he decides after a few creative performances by the girls that the town is afflicted with witchcraft there was no stopping the momentum that had built up about witchcraft. The town becomes slaves and puppets to the whims of the girls. Their beliefs that the girls are right has forced them to fear that they might be accused next. Abigail even dares say this to Danforth “Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it”! (p.108) Danforth does not pay attention to this but other members of the community do. They are afraid to do or say anything against Abigail or the girls even though the town believes that the girls are telling the truth.
The witch hunt that occurred in The Crucible can be attributed to the theme of Authority and Power and since the community believed in those in a position of power, the abuses that these people did and their need for control increased the severity of the events. Had the town not placed such power in the hands of these girls and in the hands of strangers such as Rev. Hale and judge Danforth many lives would have been saved. The beliefs of the town gave those in a position of power a want for control and they began to stop at nothing to achieve that. The massacre of innocent people in Salem is a tragic event in history which is portrayed quite accurately in Arthur Millers The Crucible.