Power in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Power in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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The issues of power, that Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, portrays are concerned with, who has the power, the shifts of power that take place and how power can consume people and try to abuse it, for either vengeance, jealously, material gain or sexual desire.

Who has the Power
Salem is an isolated village in Massachusetts where power is one of the main driving forces that contribute to the dynamics of the community and how people interact with each other. Authority and power is dominant in two main areas- The Church and the Males.
The society of Salem is a very Patriarchal Society where the men have power over the women. Husbands control their wives and children, males work and earn money, males control the high court and because of the Patriarchy they also run the church itself, another source of power.
The inhabitants of Salem live in a Theocratic Society and are all considered to be Puritans. This causes the church to have immense power because they all live by the way God and believe that they must do his work. The church has so much power and authority because they are God’s ‘messengers’. This gives them the power to say what is God’s will and how people should live. The Church is able to stay in power through out the play, because who can question Gods ways, without been condemned? In the society God is seen as the most powerful being since God is so powerful the people of Salem follow the Christian religion very closely and do not questions Gods ways.

The shift in Power
However even though the church cannot be openly defied it can be manipulated, Reverend Samuel Parris uses the authority of the church to place himself higher then others in the community. He makes his own requests through the church, demanding that he should be given golden candlesticks. This shows manipulation on a small scale; on a much larger scale, Abigail and the other girls (who have no power whatsoever in the beginning of the play- eg them dancing is prohibited, young girls are used a maids until they are old enough be married) are able to manipulate people’s beliefs and the law of the Bible. They claim to have seen witchcraft and accuse many people of using it. And because the village is filled with devoted Christians, whose whole world revolves around God, what would expect their reactions to be, to these accusations?

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Hysteria of course, and the use of extreme measures to purge the village of this evil. They become blinded by this hysteria and we see through the course of the play that the power slowly shifts away from commonsense and reason, to the supernatural and superstitions of a group of 10-18 year old girls. Why all of the madness and absurdity we ask ??? because it allows anyone who ‘believes’ in witchcraft to condemn a neighbour they have a grudge against or dislike. This causes many of the males to loose their power.
     
Abuse of Power
The high court and the girls become consumed in their newfound power. They have reversed the order of the village and they are now above the men, women, adults and parents and they have total control of the church. So it is quite evident why they got carried away.
The girls were able to blemish a person’s reputation, take land, send someone to jail and sentence people the death.( It’s a bit morbid, but that’s the effect it had). The power they gained was used and abused. Abigail uses her power by seeking vengeance on Elizabeth Proctor, she hope to have her killed and out of the way, because of her sexual desire for John Proctor, when he refuses her advances she seeks vengeance on him as well.
The Putnam’s, who also become more powerful and driven by greed, also use this tactic to gain more land and money. Mrs Putnam accuses Rebecca Nurse, because she is jealous of the fact that all her children grew up healthy.

Because these motives are considered as sinful (like the seven deadly sins; lust, envy and greed) and are frowned upon, they use the church and the witch hunts to mask their real motives. As the majority of the community are for the hangings, the minority, that is to say the Proctors and other accused victims are easily ignored and dealt with. The death of the innocent and John Proctor serve as a warning to the issues involved with power and its misuse. It will always be an issue in any society because power will always be a part of human nature and existence. People either want to tell others what to do or be told what to do, other wise everyone would feel lost. Power is not such a good thing if it’s abused and rationality is forgotten.

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