Selfishness and Its Contribution to Tragedy in 'The Crucible'

Better Essays
In the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller portrays the downfall of judgment in society when challenged by individuals willing to deceive to satisfy selfish interests. In an attempt to explain the unexplainable, the town of Salem is strongly interested to the idea of witches and devils as an excuse to make sense of tragedies such as dying infants or incurable illnesses. As a result, it is vulnerable to manipulation by greedy individuals looking to escape consequence or sustain reputation by inculcating “fear and guilt [...] in the air of Salem” (Huftel 3). Multiple characters contribute to this outbreak; however, three antagonists stand out: Abigail, Proctor and Parris, all of which spread the hysteria to fulfill personal motivations.

Abigail is also motivated by a desire of revenge throughout. She is seen as vindictive and doesn’t want to be hung because of these trials. Abigail was a housemaid for John Proctor at one point until John Proctor’s wife fired her. John lusted upon Abby and committed adultery with her because of this she was kicked her out of the house. So she stops at almost nothing to convince the court that Goody Proctor is a witch so she can have John Proctor all to herself. She is very manipulative as she accuses Tituba of witchcraft. This is also the first time that we see the ridiculous injustice and lies this city is built on. “I don’t conflict with no devil” (44). Abigail lies to save herself by giving the names of others to be killed. “You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!” (88). Abigail also uses threats of violence and the thought of her actually knowing some real witchcraft to scare them into not speaking up about what was really going on with her. She is very evil, and throughout the novel driven t...

... middle of paper ...

...imation of irony considering the prodigious amounts of lies are told in order to “protect” the court and the people of Salem. The process of proving the guilty and finding the innocent involved with witchcraft has a lot to do with the greed, selfishness and personal grudges that the characters display throughout the trials.

Works Cited

Huftel, Sheila. Arthur Miller: The Burning Glass. Citadel Press, 1965. p. 265. Excerpted in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 78. edited by Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale
Research Company, 1993. pp. 320-22.

Douglass, James “Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ Which Witch is Which” in Renascence, Vol.
XV, No. 3, Spring, 1963, pp. 145-61. Excerpted in Contemporary Literary
Criticism, Vol. 78. edited by Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale Research Company,
1993. pp. 314-15.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
Get Access