The Crucible

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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"The Salem tragedy begins with Abigail Williams, but the final responsibility for it lies in the community as a whole." Do you agree? (2 pages max) The Salem tragedy began with Abigail Williams however the final responsibility for it did lie in the community as a whole. Abigail's motivation was completely selfish, she found power and respectability within the community because of her accusations. She played on the fears of the closed Puritan society who took everything she said at face value. The society did not think that perhaps a child could be deceptive and Abigail played upon that.

The Salem tragedy can not merely be defined as the witch-hunts, it represented a loss of innocence and the destruction of the society. The witch-hunts in Salem were supposed to build up the community, cleansing it from evil, however they destroyed the society and the final responsibility for this destruction lay in the community as a whole.

The society survived because it worked together within agreed boundaries, when people broke these boundaries and questioned the law then the society was destroyed. The society believed that it needed to keep control of the individuals in order to survive and so when rumors of witch craft (a form of acting out) spread, the community smothered them. By bringing in John Hale, the community appeared to be handling the situation whereas in reality, they were adding fuel to the fire. " I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up." John Hale Act Four page 115.

Witchcraft was not the only way that the society was challenged during the Salem Tragedy. John Proctor saw that the society was motivated by greed and in his own way, he broke the boundaries. By not attending church, he felt he was making a statement, when the witch-hunt began however, this was automatically seen as suspicious. He was willing to stand up against the pressures imposed by society even if it meant the loss of his life. He was willing to admit to his faults and sins if it meant that his children had a good name. "I have three children- how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?" John Proctor Act Four page 124. He was prepared to accept responsibility for his actions if it meant that the truth was told. This was in contrast with some members of the community who believed that the power system needed to be preserved at the cost of truth.

The community was not prepared to accept responsibility for the destruction that it caused within itself. It was eager to blame anything or anyone else before admitting to the fact that it was responsible for the tragedy within it's own community. The people of Salem brought in experts from the outside to decide who was to take the blame for the destruction of the community. They did not, for one moment, think that perhaps the community as a whole was to blame and should take responsibility. They were perfectly content to send innocent members of their community to their deaths before ever criticizing the society and the values that they held. This resulted in the loss of upstanding citizens within the community, Rebecca Nurse, Giles Corey and John Proctor being the most prominent. The accusation of Rebecca Nurse, who represented all that the society should have been, proved that the community was not prepared to take the responsibility for the tragedy that it had incurred.

Members of the community refused to take responsibility for the tragedy because of varying reasons. Judge Hawthorne and Deputy-Governor Danforth realized that the witch-hunts had gotten out of hand however would not accept responsibility for it because they were concerned for their reputations. "I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement…postponement speaks a floundering on my part." Deputy Governor Danforth Act Four page 113. Reverend Parris did not accept responsibility for the tragedy because he knew that his reputation was at stake as well. Greed, vengeance, pride and power kept the situation going for so long. No one would admit to their mistakes after so many lives had been ruined and the entire community destroyed. "there are orphans wandering from house to house, abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlots' cry will end his life" John Hale Act Four page 114.

Abigail Williams initiated the Salem tragedy however the final responsibility for it did lie in the community as a whole. The community, however, was not willing to accept responsibility for the Salem tragedy because they had fuelled it through their greed, jealousy, pride and power craving. They could not distance themselves from the situation and realize that they had to accept the responsibility as a community.