In The Crucible, what evidence is there that sharp divisions exist among the people of Salem Village in the first act?  

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mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Well, in Act One there sure is a lot of bickering going on-the people fight about everything!  Proctor, Corey and Putnam argue over land boundaries, Proctor argues with Parris about his style of preaching, Ann Putnam reveals her suspcions of evil midwives killing her babies, and Parris whines about just about everything from firewood to his salary, to the factions against him.

In addition to this, Rebecca Nurse, the most peaceful of the lot, says, "This will set us all to arguin' again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year", which indicates that arguing is a regular feature in Salem.  And, Miller give background information about how the Nurses and the Putnams have constantly fought over land and elections, and Giles Corey is constantly suing people.  All of this is excellent breeding ground for the unjust accusations that occurred in the play.

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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We can also get a sense of the division in Salem from Reverend Parris's paranoia and fear regarding a faction that he believes aims to topple him.  Though his daughter is gravely ill, he seems to care more about his reputation and authority than he does her health and recovery.  To Abigail, he says,

if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it [....].  Abigail, do you understand that I have many enemies?  [....] There is a faction that is sworn to drive me from my pulpit.  Do you understand that?

His most immediate concern is not that Abigail's behavior has endangered her cousin but rather that he has endangered his position.  His insistence that he has "many enemies" clues us in to the level of division in this community.  He thinks that his enemies will find out the truth before he does and use it against him.  Parris believes there is a splinter group in his congregation, a group who specifically works toward his destruction.  In order for such a group to exist, there must be division.

Later in Act One, Parris reveals to John Proctor that he believes Proctor to be the leader of this group.  He refers to Proctor and his "followers," saying, "There is a party in this church.  I am not blind; there is a faction and a party."  Putnam echoes that this faction works "Against [Parris] and all authority!"  Proctor wryly suggests that he and Corey join it right away.  We can see, already the division between the Proctor/Corey side and the Parris/Putnam side.  

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