Scarlet Letter V. The Crucible

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Of the works of literature written about New England puritan society, possibly the two with the most striking similarities are The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter. Aside from the fact that they deal with the shortcomings of the idealistic and often tyrannical puritan society, both revolve around the premise that someone is being forced to suffer for their inability to confess secret sin. Of the various notable similarities between The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible, possibly none is perhaps more apparent than that of Procter and Dimmesdale.

Possibly the most notable similarity between the two characters is in that most of the conflict throughout both stories revolves around the unconfessed sin of both. In Dimmesdale's case, most of his trouble stems from the fact that for fear of being ostracized, as well as the possibility of being hanged, cannot come forward to confess. Thus, his conscience gnaws away at him along side with Chillingworth relentlessly harassing him about it, until he can no longer bear it, and goes before the town to confess, at which point he dies.

Procter, on the other hand, is reluctant to confess due to the fact that he wants to keep his name clean. When Abigail tries to have his wife executed with the intent of eliminating her so that she could be with Procter, he feels that he must do something to stop this. In an attempt to accomplish this, he decides to confess his sin to the court, thus showing the motivation behind why Abigail charges his wife with Witchcraft.

Another of the more prolific similarities between Dimmesdale, and Procter evident within the novel is that both, set against a repressive society, were forced to conceal a secret sin from the rest of society; yet the manor in which they came forward, and for what reasons are possibly the two most notable contrasts between the two characters. Procter came forth on behalf of his wife. In an attempt to eliminate goody Procter Abigail charges her with Witchcraft. Seeing the motivation behind this, John Procter decides to confess his sin to the court in an attempt to save his wife's life, and to put an end to the accusations of witchcraft. To verify this claim, which in turn would negate all the other charges made by Abigail and the other girls, the court asks goody Procter to recount why she fired Abigail. When she lies to cover for her husband's reputation, the court felt as though Procter were trying to deceive them, and undermine the court's authority. As a result of the secret sin, John ends up hanging. Dimmesdale too hides his sin due to the puritan's attitude toward adultery. Dimmesdale ends up confessing his sins not to save someone else, but rather in order to save himself.

Of the two novels, one of the parallels that stands out most vividly is that which can be drawn between Procter and Dimmesdale, yet at the same time, one could just as easily point out the many differences between the two characters.