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Breaking Society’s Rules

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Breaking Society’s Rules

American literature often examines people and motives. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, and in Arthur Miller’s dramatic classic, The Crucible, people and motives often depict patterns of Puritans struggling for life during a precarious time.

Guilt and shame can tear a person's soul away. The inevitable consequence of sin is the immediate reaction of guilt, shame, and remorse. For example: John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, and Reverend Dimmesdale have all committed a sin or sins and are feeling extremely guilty about it. They want to be forgiven, but they have no strength and are cowards. Forgiveness can only be obtained when these characters find the strength within themselves to speak the truth.

The first to commit a sin is John Proctor, the husband of Elizabeth Proctor. John is a good man until Abigail Williams comes into his life. John lives in a house feeling empty and thinking his wife does not love him. Lust is a very powerful feeling, and it tempts John right into bed with Abigail. Unfortunately once he commits adultery, Elizabeth does not forgive him. She finds ways to punish John and make him feel more remorseful. For example, Reverend Hale asks John to recite the commandments, and he forgets one, Elizabeth then says sarcastically, “Adultery, John.” Elizabeth responds in such a manner that John feels overwhelming pain in his heart.

Naturally, Elizabeth feels guilty as well. She tells John, “I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.” Elizabeth feels as though she is to blame for John committing adultery. She is a mother and, of course, Elizabeth will be consumed with taking care of their children, cooking, cleaning, etc. At first, Elizabeth does not recognize John pulling away from her and turning towards Abigail. Soon after Elizabeth finds out John committed adultery with Abby, she fires her. Later on in the novel Elizabeth is accused of being a witch and John goes to court to prove Abigail is lying.
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