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What is the significance of how Rebecca Nurse's and John Proctor's views differ from...

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radha-sarkar | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 30, 2012 at 3:58 AM via web

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What is the significance of how Rebecca Nurse's and John Proctor's views differ from those of the other villagers?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 30, 2012 at 4:22 PM (Answer #1)

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The greatest significance in how Proctor and Rebecca Nurse's attitudes differ from the other villages is the level of challenge that the voice of dissent must face in a setting where conformity is the norm.  Miller makes it clear from the exposition of the drama that one of the most important elements of Salem life is the idea of how conformity and security are almost synonymous with one another.  In other words, people in Salem learn to get along by moving along and conforming to one another's views.  This is where the voices of Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are significant.  Both characters seek to repudiate from an early point the premise of witchcraft that seems to have taken a hold of the Salem community.  Even at the earliest of moments, Proctor is convinced that the claims of witchcraft are more a reflection of the foolishness and immaturity of the girls'.  His suspicions are confirmed with Abigail's own confession to him.  Rebecca Nurse suggests that witchcraft is not to blame as much as children simply behaving like children.  Both Proctor and Rebecca Nurse seek to explain the actions of the children with some level of reasoned analysis as opposed to the mass hysteria surrounding witchcraft and the devil.  The significance of their differing views and the eventual punishment that they suffer because of it reflects how voices of dissent struggle in a brutally conformist atmosphere.  Such voices become critically challenged in such an environment, demonstrated by the ultimate price paid in speaking out in an atmosphere that demands adherence and conformity at all costs.

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