Social deterioration in "The Crucible"


The deterioration of Salem's social structure precipitated the
murders of many innocent people. Arthur Miller's depiction of the
Salem witch trials, The Crucible, deals with a community that
starts out looking like it is tightly knit and church loving. It
turns out that once Tituba starts pointing her finger at the
witches, the community starts pointing their fingers at each
other. Hysteria and hidden agendas break down the social structure
and then everyone must protect themselves from the people that
they thought were their friends. The church, legal system and the
togetherness of the community died so that children could protect
their families' social status.

Being isolated from any other group of people with different
beliefs created a church led Puritan society that was not able to
accept a lot of change. The church was against the devil, at the
same time it was against such things as dancing and other
premature acts. The reputation of the family was very important to
the members of the community. When the girls were caught dancing
in the woods, they lied to protect not just themselves but the
reputation of their families. They claimed that the devil took
them over and influenced them to dance. The girls also said that
they saw members of the town standing with the devil. A community
living in a puritan society like Salem could easily go into a
chaotic state and have a difficult time dealing with what they
consider to be the largest form of evil.

Salem's hysteria made the community lose faith in the spiritual
beliefs that they were trying to strictly enforce. The church lost
many of its parishioners because the interest of the town was now
on Abigail because people wanted to know who was going to be named
next. When the church was trying to excommunicate John Proctor,
there were not enough people at church to do it. The people were
getting misled so far as to leave a dagger stuck in the door of
their minister's house: Tonight, when I open my door to leave my
house_a dagger clattered to the ground...There is danger for
me.(128) were Parris' exact words. With the conveyer of God
fearing for his life there was no longer anyone but Abigail to
lead the community.

The justice system is designed to protect the people that it
serves but during the trials the accused witch had two choices,
death or imprisonment. The punishment of death was given to all
people that pleaded not guilty; the other punishment was to plead
guilty and go to jail. John Proctor gave his view of the justice
system when he said I like not the smell of this `authority' (29).
And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jails from
Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature?(85) said Danforth,
describing the number of people that were in jail on charges of
witchcraft. There were so many people executed that Hale commented
there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle
bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs
everywhere...(130) Salem was turning into a ghost town. With
Abigail controlling the community, the church no longer getting
the whole town to prayer, and an unjust legal system, it is
natural that the people were in a state of total chaos.

The unexplained was caused by the devil, so some members of Salem
used the unexplained to their advantage. Mrs. Putnam told the
truth when she said, There are wheels within wheels in this
village, and fires within fires!(26) Mrs. Putnam did her share of
spreading rumors after she heard that the girls were flying, so
she asked Parris How high did she (Abigail) fly, how high?(11).
These rumors happened because people did not want any blame put on
to themselves. This `passing the buck' made people start fighting
with one another such as Corey charging Putnam of having his
daughter accuse a resident of witchcraft in order to get Corey's
land. Abigail used her power of getting people to listen to her to
her advantage when she charged Proctor's spouse with being a witch
so Abigail could live with John. This again proves that Abigail
had control of the town and the unexplained turned neighbor
against neighbor.

The social breakdown in Salem was the major factor in the tragedy
that took the lives of many innocent people. There was more than
one tragedy in The Crucible. The first was the murdering of many
innocent people, and the second was that a community that was once
very close had been broken apart. It appeared that the people of
Salem were like a family but isolation