toriesSalem Witchcraft TrialsThroughout society and throughout literature, vulnerable communities under certain conditions can be easily taken advantage of by a person or group of people presumed innocent. In the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, there are three main factors that allowed the girls fallacious stories to be believed: Salems flawed court system, its lack of diversity in beliefs and religion, and the lack of a strong leader in the town. Although Abigail and the girls initiated the accusations, the responsibility lies with the entire community. It was the deterioration of Salem’s social structure that precipitated the murders of many innocent people. The church, legal system and the togetherness of the community fell just to protect social status.
Salems flawed court system was chiefly responsible. Under their courts, denial was considered a terrible sin. The narrow mindedness of the court possessed an unwritten law that if a name was brought out within the court, without any questioning, that person was presumed guilty. In this system, innocence is not taken into consideration, and the court is convinced they are right only if the victim confesses. There is no hearing for the victim, and even if they are truly innocent, they are only left with two options: They have the choice of denial, which will lead to their execution; or confessing, which gets them thrown into jail.
To prove that all these people were actually guilty also played a part in lengthening the tragedy. Herrick, Cheever and Danforth are all full of their own importance and strictness of the court. They ask question after question to each victim until the defendant breaks down and confesses to save their life. Hale, a person who was brought in from out of town to ward off the evil spirits, began to realize the victims innocence towards the end. However, he knew the strictness of the court: Though our hearts break, we cannot flinch, these are new times.
Another contributing factor was the fact that everyone in the town had the same beliefs. The fact that they were isolated from all other groups of people with different beliefs created a church-led Puritan society that was unable to handle change. The reputation of a 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. When caught, 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. By shifting the blame onto someone else, they believed that they would not be held accountable for their own sins.
Salems lack of a leader in the town was also key. Parris was supposed to be a leader, however when the church tried to excommunicate John Proctor, there were not even enough people at church to do it. The people were getting misled so much that someone left 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.” were Parris’ exact words. With the conveyer of God fearing for his life there was no longer anyone but Abigail to lead the community.
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 focused now on Abigail because people wanted to know who was going to be named next. 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 she could live with John Proctor. This again proves that Abigail had control of the town and the unexplained turned neighbor against neighbor. Abigail manipulates her way through the play, and even after Mary Warren confessed that the whole story was a pretense, Abigail continues manipulating the court room and the people within it with antics of a wind, a cold wind and Oh Heavenly Father, take away this shadow.
In essence, it was the social breakdown in Salem that was the major factor which allowed the girls stories to be believed. Woefully, this tragedy took the lives of many innocent people and the community that was once very close had been broken apart. It appeared that the people of Salem were like a family but isolation actually made them unable to adapt to a troublesome situation. Hopefully for the future, all accused will continue to have the opportunity for defense, so that a situation similar to the events that occurred in Salem will remain in history alone.