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At the beginning of The Crucible, there exists a paradox: "All organization is and must...

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stephaguerrero | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:02 PM via web

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At the beginning of The Crucible, there exists a paradox: "All organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition."  Explain how this quote reflects a paradoxical social structure.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM (Answer #1)

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Miller's assessment of Salem is one of the many reasons why the drama works as a statement of literature as well as social science.  The construction of Salem as a paradoxical social reality in which unity and coherence is present at the price of exclusion and prohibition helps to explain not only how Salem functions, but also how the witch trials gained so much traction in Salem.  The fundamental question the reader confronts in the Salem Witch Trials is how a community of reasonable people would embrace such accusations that end up tearing apart a social order.  Miller provides a potential answer in suggesting that the very essence of Salem society revolved around the idea of exclusion and demonizing "the other."  Miller's analysis demonstrates how this was done with Salem's relationship with Native Americans, and invariably, how this was turned on itself.  In the statement, Miller suggests that the social order of Salem could only survive through the targeting of "the other."  This is seen in the drama as Putnam turns on Corey, Parris turns on Proctor, and Abigail turns on just about anyone and everyone who has done wrong to her.  The basis for social interaction in Salem is done with exclusion and prohibition as a part of its modus operandi.  Interestingly enough, the quote brings out how the social configuration of Salem would turn on those in the position of power, as well.  Parris and the Salem Court recognize this in Act IV, when the citizens of Salem turn to demonizing the Status Quo, just as those did in Andover.   In this turn, the quote ends up helping to explain how the end of the drama ends up developing, rooted in the idea of exclusion and prohibition.


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