Conformity Problem in The Crucible Essay Example


Conformity and nonconformity have been a major flaw of society for centuries. Those who conform to the rules and laws seem to view anyone not conforming as an outcast, consequently feel hatred for them, while those who do not conform feel that they are lonely in society. Such ideas are referenced in Emerson’s ideas that society prefers conformists over non-conformist. One such book that helps to support these ideas is The Crucible. Miller’s The Crucible strongly supports Emerson’s idea that society prefers conformists over non-conformist and Miller uses these characters to show it is more honorable to be an outcast of society than to conform to something they are not. 

Conformity is the main fault in Salem of the late 1600s. Many people are always on edge of being accused of going against popular beliefs, so they conform to them. One such character who knows he has committed a crime of adultery against his religion, nevertheless fears that he will be caught is John Proctor. During act 2, John is being interrogated by Reverend Hale, a man who was sent in to make sure no witchcraft was committed. Hale questions if John can recite the 10 commandments. He nails every one except the very commandment he failed. His wife quickly chimes in, to say “Adultery, John,” (Miller 67). Proctor feels a deep pain in his heart. He knows he committed such an act. Proctor goes out of his way to not conform to the ideas of religion in Salem, and it may cost him. Emerson’s ideas of self-reliance are alive in Salem, as Proctor becomes more worried about anyone finding out, he begins to conform to the idea of witchcraft. He has himself to be considered an outcast in society. He begins to grin as Hale says “You see, sir, between the two of us we know them all”, As Hale looks deeply into Proctor causing Proctor to become uneasy. “I think it’s a small fault” (Miller 67). Hale learning this becomes very skeptical. Hale tries to get Proctor to confess to not believing in witches, but Proctor conforms to the modern-day belief, falling under the majority of Salem, even though he conversely had said just a few days ago he did not believe in witchcraft. These ideas of witchcraft spread throughout Salem.

The outcast of the society in Salem are extremely vulnerable to be accused of witchcraft, just because they don’t have anyone else to back them up and are accused by the people who have conformed to the idea of witchcraft, in fear of getting themselves accused. Tituba, the slave of the Putnam’s, has fallen into that very spot. Mrs. Putnam, her owner, has accused Tituba of witchcraft, having killed all her babies. She now believes that Ruth is under TItuba’s spell because everyone believes that Betty is under it as well.  Abigail begins to scream. “She made me do it. She made me do it” (Miller 43). Once one person in the group thinks that Tituba is a witch, they all start conforming to the belief that she is a witch. This leads to the snowball effect. The girls begin to accuse others, mostly outcasts of witchcraft, with Abigail being a lead figure. Abigail bursts out, "I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw..." (Miller 48). The tension builds up as all the girls start scream names of people they think committed witchcraft, just to get off. Abigail uses this to get the rest of the girls to conform to her ideas, as one by one the girls start agreeing with her, as like what Emerson has said, society prefers to conform to the ideas. This large amount of people accusing others of witchcraft, such as when Tituba starts accusing many other people, who are also considered to be outcasts, to be witches. This leads to the trials, and Danforth is brought in to hear them.

Danforth, the crude, somewhat unfair judge has been sent to Salem to deal with the witchcraft trials. Danforth considers himself to be a nobleman. In the end, Danforth convicts them of witchcraft, a common word in the book used to substitute that they failed to conform to society and follow the laws and rules of religion. "Look you, sir, she is convicted of unnatural murder of children and you for sending your spirit out upon Mary Warren. Your soul alone is the issue here and you will prove whiteness or you cannot live in a Christian county." (Miller 141). Danforth has already bought into these accusations of witchcraft, sealing the fate, tries to get Proctor to confess while Danforth believes that these accusations are true. Proctor, one of the outcasts who has been very outspoken on the court, preaches his feelings, saying "Because it is my name? Because I cannot have another in my life Because I lie and I sign myself to lies? Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave my name." (Miller 14). Proctor's preaching shows he will not confess and conform to the ideas of witchcraft. Even though other people in the town have conformed to sign confessions that they know are lies Proctor will not do it. He will not let his name be soiled just to please other people. This may be one of the only times in the play that someone stands strong and does not conform. These ideas of self reliances are terrible tales of history, backed up by Emerson, who wrote of them to show how people are against non-conformist, view them as outcasts, and even go as far as to harm them, as shown in Miller’s The Crucible.

It is important to understand how society has acted for conformity versus nonconformity in history. As said by Emerson in his self-reliance essay “imitation is suicide” (Emerson 2). Discussing the dangers of conformity. These ideas in history can be supported by the true story of The Crucible. Miller’s The Crucible helps to support these ideas of conformity and nonconformity brought on by Emerson's ideas of self-reliance to show how one society can be affected by the laws and rules that the people follow, and how they may treat someone who is known to be an outcast on life.

 

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