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Puritans. The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices they maintained that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and needed to become more Protestant. Opposed to how the Church of England had governed themselves, Puritans migrated toward New England in hopes they could conduct their practices in peace. The Crucible is set about 100 years later. The Crucible takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, during the Salem Witch Trials. The play is a fictionalized version of the trials and tells the story of a group of young Salem women who falsely accuse other villagers of witchcraft. The interesting part about this whole story is that if you confessed to witchcraft, you would be saved. So many deaths could’ve been avoided. Why were these innocent people sentenced to death, all because that group of women accused them? Why did so many people refuse to confess, even if it meant saving their life? The Puritans were a very religious society. This means that if anyone was accused of witchcraft, they would be tried, and possibly sentenced to death. Could it be that the culture of their society was the main cause of the tragedy of Salem? If so what part of their culture destroyed them? There were many contributing factors to this, whether it be religion, traditions, or just… people’s emotions getting the better of them.
The people of Salem were influenced heavily by their faith in their religion. They were so scared of upsetting their God because if they did, they would go to Hell instead of making it into Heaven. When someone had been accused of witchcraft, it meant that they had sold their soul to the Devil. When that happens, they no longer possessed the soul that is needed to enter Heaven or Hell. Naturally, if someone was called out to be a witch, the person in question would be terrified and immediately say they aren’t a witch. “But that’s exactly something a witch would say.” That very saying is what killed so many people. Something about the witch trials is that the court accepted spectral evidence. What this means is that they would accept supernatural events as evidence. In The Crucible, there is a scene where a woman, named Elizabeth Proctor, had been accused of witchcraft because her puppet had a needle that punctured the naval. A couple hours before that, Abigail Williams, a young woman who lead the accusing group, had a 2-inch needle sticking out of her stomach. With “evidence” Elizabeth Proctor was taken away and held in jail until her trial. John Proctor had said that this was all baseless evidence, in response to that statement, a man named Cheever had said “Tis hard proof! I find here a poppet Goody Proctor keeps. I have found it, sir… In the belly of the poppet, a needle’s stuck!”. Spiritual events was considered evidence. And as such, religion posed a problem to these people.
Or maybe, it is not religion itself, but the people leading the religious group. Reverend Parris was a Puritan priest who once lived in an urban area, and he brought with him his daughter Betty Parris, and his niece, Abigail Williams. John Proctor, a respected farmer, did not approve of the reverend living in Salem and becoming the new priest. Naturally, the Reverend was not exactly fond of John either. Before they had arrived in Salem, the town was known as peaceful. And within three years, Abigail became the “leader” of a murderous group of teenage women, and almost destroyed the marriage of John and Elizbeth Proctor. Before The Crucible began, Abigail worked for the Proctors and learned how to become a housewife or a “good wife”. Eventually, she and John slept together. Once Elizabeth found out, she kicked Abigail out and this even though Abigail was in love with John and despised Elizabeth. This, led to Elizabeth being accused of witchcraft on multiple occasions. Abigail was a manipulative little she-devil, and her actions began to affect the innocent. Such as Ruth Putnam, one of the girls in the group. “Mr. Putnam, I have here an accusation by Mr. Corey against you. He states that you coldly prompted your daughter to cry witchery upon George Jacobs that is now in jail.” Ruth Putnam was a pure young girl, but she had accused George Jacobs, a man who had a large amount of land her father had wanted. Now while we do not know whether or not Sir Putnam had told Ruth to accuse Jacobs, it does not change the fact that, Abigail had drastically affected those around her.
Now, let’s say that Reverend and the girls never moved to Salem. Would that have fixed the problem? Unfortunately, no. A huge part that had to play in the tragedy was, the government. More specifically, the judicial branch. The judges that had been sent to Salem to solve the issues were more than likely corrupt. The judges didn’t care about the people of Salem, they just wanted fame and believed they were participating in some act of heroism. But the moment someone came in to challenge the court and the authenticity of what the girls were saying, the judges cowered in fear and proceeded to save their reputations. Take this conversation with Danforth and Mary, for example, “Danforth: Then you tell me that you sat in my court, cal-lously lying, when you knew that people would hang by your evidence? She does not answer. Answer me! Mary Warren, almost inaudibly: I did, sir. Danforth: How were you instructed in your life? Do you not know that God damns all liars? She cannot speak. Or is it now that you lie’!”. The way Danforth is aggressively speaking, you can tell that he is scared, scared that his reputation as a judge will be tarnished. Instead of judging the group fairly, because remember Mary had already confessed, which is more than enough evidence, Danforth clings on to hope. He calls the girls in, and even Elizabeth to prove whether or not certain claims were true, until he ultimately, puts her back in jail. The end of the witch trials seemed near, but it went on for at least a couple more weeks. In fact, the only reason the Salem witch trials had ended was because the Governor’s wife had been accused, and he went to Salem to shut everything down.
The witch trials was a tragic event that could have been prevented. Had the judges been more observant, they could have used lie detecting techniques, by being able to tell if the girls being ‘afflicted,” those being accused, and those who were accusing were lying or telling the truth. Or perhaps they could’ve gotten more reasonable judges, maybe judges that would not accept spectral evidence into the court. Or maybe if the girls decided not to dance in the woods, none of these events would have happened. While many parts of the Puritans culture had destroyed Salem society, people are responsible for such things. It is not only the Puritans, however. Other groups were afraid of outsiders, this is a huge part in our world today. Perhaps if people were more accepting of one another, all of this may have been avoided. Every country, state, nation, etc, has a culture, many respect that culture, but there is a difference between following your beliefs, and taking your beliefs very far.
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