How does The Crucible reflect Transcendentalist ideas?

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

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I had to pare down the question a bit.  I think that Miller’s work does possess some direct Transcendentalist ideas.  The most dominant of which is the idea that conformist and traditional social or religious orders might not possess the “right path.”  Even before his railing against Abigail, Proctor confesses to Hale that he and Abigail really do not trust Parris and his leadership of the formal institution of the church. Certainly this is reminiscent of the Transcendentalist call for individuals to find their own sense of spiritual identity away from that which is established or accepted as “truth.”  Locating the seat of all awareness sin the subjectivity, a Transcendentalist would accept Proctor’s stand against Parris and the formal church. From this point, Proctor defines himself against social orders and social norms.  When Elizabeth is arrested, Proctor declares that “vengeance is walking in Salem,” a direct call to say that Salem society is wrong and that conformity to such a notion is inherently bad.  It is in this belief that Proctor calls Hale a “broken minister,” implying that one cannot be a part of something that is inherently wrong.  This reflects the Transcendentalist idea of “knowing thyself” and breaking away from a conformist setting that one knows is wrong.  In this idea of “know thyself,” Proctor’s defense of his “name” is highly Transcendentalist.  Proctor rejects all ideas of social good and what is the “accepted” path to take in demanding that the defense of his name is the most important factor in his decision making calculations.  This is reminiscent of how Transcendentalist thinkers like Thoreau and Emerson demanded that individuals recognize their own sense of dignity and stand as voices of dissent when the situation called for it.  Again, in this action, Proctor locates his sense of power in the subjective, which is highly Transcendentalist.


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