The Deterioration of Salem During the Witch Trials

The

Deterioration of Salem During the Witch Trials

The deterioration of Salem's social structure
precipitated the murders of many innocent people. Arthur Miller's depiction
of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible, deals with a community that starts
out looking like it is tightly knit and church loving. It turns out that
once Tituba starts pointing her finger at the witches, the community starts
pointing their fingers at each other. Hysteria and hidden agendas break
down the social structure and then everyone must protect themselves from
the people that they thought were their friends. The church, legal system
and the togetherness of the community died so that children could protect
their families' social status.

Being isolated from any other group of
people with different beliefs created a church led Puritan society that
was not able to accept a lot of change. The church was against the devil,
at the same time it was against such things as dancing and other premature
acts. The reputation of the 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. 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.

A community living in a puritan society like Salem could easily go into
a chaotic state and have a difficult time dealing with what they consider
to be the largest form of evil.

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 now on Abigail because people wanted to know who was going to be named
next. When the church was trying to excommunicate John Proctor, there were
not enough people at church to do it. The people were getting misled so
far as to leave 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."(128) were Parris' exact words. With the conveyer of

God fearing for his life there was no longer anyone but Abigail to lead
the community.

The justice system is designed to protect
the people that it serves but during the trials the accused witch had two
choices, death or imprisonment. The punishment of death was given to all
people that pleaded not guilty; the other punishment was to plead guilty
and go to jail. John Proctor gave his view of the justice system when he
said "I like not the smell of this 'authority' "(29). "And do you know
that near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and
upon my signature?"(85) said Danforth, describing the number of people
that were in jail on charges of witchcraft. There were so many people executed
that Hale commented "there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned
cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere..."(130)

Salem was turning into a ghost town. With Abigail controlling the community,
the church no longer getting the whole town to prayer, and an unjust legal
system, it is natural that the people were in a state of total chaos.

The unexplained was caused by the devil,
so some members of Salem used the unexplained to their advantage. Mrs.

Putnam told the truth when she said, "There are wheels within wheels in
this village, and fires within fires!"(26) Mrs. Putnam did her share of
spreading rumors after she heard that the girls were flying, so she asked

Parris "How high did she (Abigail) fly, how high?"(11). These rumors happened
because people did not want any blame put on to themselves. This 'passing
the buck' made people start fighting with one another such as Corey charging

Putnam of having his daughter accuse a resident of witchcraft in order
to get Corey's land. 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 Abigail could live with John. This again proves that Abigail had
control of the town and the unexplained turned neighbor against neighbor.

The social breakdown in Salem was the major
factor in the tragedy that took the lives of many innocent people. There
was more than one tragedy in The Crucible. The first was the murdering
of many innocent people, and the second was that a community that was