The Accusing Girls in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible Your Name Name of the Instructor The Accusing Girls in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible Plays are an important means of influencing the society in which one lives. The importance of plays had gone up drastically in the twentieth century when various new forms of theatre came up in response to the new political formations that were in vogue in different parts of the world…
Redefining Aristotelian ideas about theatre, playwrights of the twentieth century talked of ideas and images that haunted them, often taking on the political class through their plays. Significant among these new writers was Arthur Miller. His play, The Crucible, talks about America that was increasingly intolerant towards differences within its society. The critique of this society and its political groups comes in a veiled manner, through a critique of the Salem Witch Trials that happened in the seventeenth century in Puritan America. This critique serves two purposes. Firstly, it saved Miller, to a certain extent, from the intolerant intellectual climate that he was writing about. On the other hand, it also served to highlight the cruelty of the same climate by equating it to one of the most horrific incidents in American history where innocent men and women were put to death because of the political needs of a certain class of people. This paper shall seek to analyze the characters of the two accusing girls within the play – Abigail Williams and Betty Parris. The motivations of these characters for accusing the other characters are not ideological or religious. They accuse other people of witchcraft for their own individual purposes. While this is not to say that accusing another person wrongly for religious purposes can be condoned, the absolute lack of any principles that guide the accusations is astounding. Miller focuses the attention of his readers and audience towards this hypocrisy that is present in the American society, something that he talks of as being present since the days of the Salem Witch trials since 1693 (Linder). This hypocrisy is borne out of a fear that does not let a person rest, according to the play. Abigail Williams seems to be a part of this fear and amidst talks of punishing witches, she seeks to seduce John Proctor. The hypocrisy of this ideological standpoint is revealed at those points where both Abigail and Proctor seek to conceal the details of their relationship. What Abigail seems to be seeking is merely sexual pleasure. However, a reluctance to accept this is accompanied by a desire to victimize other women as witches. Historically, the women who were victimized as witches were mainly persons of sexualities that were not sanctioned by the ultra-conservative Puritan church. They also belonged to that class of women who were unable, under the Puritan dispensation, to fulfill their educational ambitions (Blumberg). This can be seen in the references that characters make to women who read, in The Crucible. It is, thus, all the more tragic when women fail to support their initiative and condemn them as witches. This defines the predicament of people like Abigail Williams, Mary Warren and Betty Parris. Instead of displaying a certain kind of solidarity towards each other, they seek to victimize each other for their own short-term goals. The persons who gain from these accusations are those who seek to cheat others out of their land and set up their own farms, thus perpetuating patriarchal forms of living that would then make possible incidents such as the trials in the future. The events that Miller talks of in The Crucible are historically accurate to a certain extent. They are, however, also fictionalized to a large degree. This helps the ...
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