The Crucible: Lies and DeceitGet Your
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Deception in Salem The Crucible is a 1953 play written by Arthur Miller, which portrays the story of the Salem Witch Trials, and the townspeople it affected. The play is an allegory of McCarthyism, which Miller unjustifiably experienced, due to the fact that he was a playwright. The prosecutions of the Salem Witch Trials led to the deaths of several innocent townspeople. As the accused individuals stood trial, it was the testimonies of villagers which essentially determined their fate.
Whether lying to save a life, or take someone else’s, dishonest villagers created a chaos which shook Salem Village to its core. The Crucible depicts the extreme behaviors that occur when the difference between truthfulness and treachery is life or death. In The Crucible the most notable characters who conduct in deception are Abigail Williams, John Proctor, and Mary Warren. The Salem Witch Trials could have never reached such infamy, if it were not for the lies and deceit of the people of Salem.
Abigail “Abby” Williams goes to the greatest lengths to deceive the townspeople of Salem, in order for her own selfish gain. When Abby is questioned about dancing in the woods with the other girls, she blames Tituba by stating, “She made me do it! She made Betty do it! ” (187). Abigail is willing to sacrifice the life of Tituba, Reverend Parris’ slave from the Barbados, in order to spare herself from punishment. While Tituba did not force any of the girls to commit witchcraft, she confesses to the crime, as she knows Abby’s claims are held to a higher standard than those of a slave like herself.
In an attempt to defend her lies, Abigail accuses Mary Warren of witchcraft by saying “…Oh, please, Mary! Don’t come down. ” (224). After Mary Warren confesses to the court that the accusations she and the rest of the girls made were untrue; Abigail leads the other girls in an attack against Mary. Abigail goes as far to accuse Mary of sending her spirit upon them, an accusation that could’ve ended Mary’s life, in order to protect her lies. Abigail Williams is greatly responsible for the convictions of innocent townspeople, and all for her own gain and protection.
In contrast to Abigail, Mary Warren is seen as the more innocent and obedient character. As the servant of the Proctors, Mary Warren is loyal to them in the beginning. When Elizabeth Proctor is accused of being a witch, Mary agrees to testify against Abigail and the other girls in order to save Elizabeth, as well as be faithful to God. However, when Abigail’s threats against Mary become too intense for her to handle, Mary lashes out at John Proctor by saying “You’re the Devil’s man! ” (226).
As a result of Abigail and the other girls taunting, Mary Warren re-joins them in their deceit in order to save herself from punishment. While Mary wanted to help stop the false accusations made by the girls, their lies were far too believable by the court. Mary Warren is an easily overcome character, who agrees to deceive the court in order to spare herself from punishment. John Proctor is The Crucible’s tragic hero. Although he is flawed by his previous affair with Abigail, Proctor seeks justice for Salem, and his falsely accused wife Elizabeth at all costs.
When Proctor grows tired of Elizabeth’s failure to trust him, he says “You forget nothin, and forgive nothin” (194). While Abigail worked for the Proctors as a servant, John cheated on Elizabeth with her. In the time of the affair, Proctor lied to his wife in order to keep it a secret. When speaking to Elizabeth about whether or not to confess to witchcraft, John Proctor feels that since he has already been dishonest, it wouldn’t matter if he lied, “I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man.
My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. (236). John felt that he was not a godly man due to his affair, and telling the truth wouldn’t make him one. However, upon learning that his confession will be nailed to the church, John decides to protect his name and faith to God by being honest. John Proctor, once a deceiving man to his wife, fights for the truth even at the cost of his own life. Abigail Williams and Mary Warren lied to protect themselves, and convicted the innocent people of Salem. John Proctor however, fought selflessly to free his wife and imprisoned friends.
While Mary Warren betrayed the Proctors in order to save herself, that event would not have taken place if it weren’t for Abigail Williams. Abigail pays no regards to moral standards or God, but instead only acts to benefit herself at whatever expense she deems necessary. The lies and deceit in Salem pinned neighbor against neighbor, and called for the unjust death of many.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. 1953.
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The Language of Literature: American Literature. Applebee, Arthur N. , et al. Evanston: McDougall Littell, 2002. 164-240.
Author: Christen Curtis
The Crucible: Lies and Deceit
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ABIGAIL: Gah! I'd almost forgot how strong you are, John Proctor!
PROCTOR, looking at Abigail now, the faintest suggestion of a knowing smile on his face: What's this mischief here?
ABIGAIL, with a nervous laugh: Oh, she's only gone silly somehow.
PROCTOR: The road past my house is a pilgrimage to Salem all morning. The town's mumbling witchcraft.
ABIGAIL: Oh, posh! (Winningly she comes a little closer, with a confidential, wicked air.) We were dancin' in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. She took fright, is all.
PROCTOR, his smile widening: Ah, you're wicked yet, aren't y'! (A trill of expectant laughter escapes her, and she dares come closer, feverishly looking into his eyes.) You'll be clapped in the stocks before you're twenty.
He takes a step to go, and she springs into his path.
ABIGAIL: Give me a word, John. A soft word. (Her concentrated desire destroys his smile.)
PROCTOR: No, no, Abby. That's done with. (I.173-180)