How is intolerance a theme of The Crucible?

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

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I think that Miller's work thematically develops the idea of intolerance in different contexts.  Intolerance can be considered a theme in the drama because it is seen in different characters towards different characters.  For example, there is automatic intolerance whenever someone, anyone, is accused of witchcraft.  Consider the immediate attitudes towards Tituba.  The intolerance and exclusion shown to her is representative of how quick the community of Salem demonstrates it when someone is accused of witchcraft.  There is intolerance shown even amongst the girls, themselves.  When Mary Warren tries to voice disagreement with Abigail, she is met with brutal and quick intolerance to silence her and put her back in line with the wishes of the group.  At the same time, as Abigail assumes a greater prominence in the drama, there is greater institutional intolerance demonstrated.  Judges Hathorne and Danforth exhibit intolerance towards anyone who disagrees or even tries to speak out against the court's decisions.  Francis Nurse, Giles Corey, and John Proctor are all examples of experiencing this intolerance of the court in a direct manner.  In these contexts, the idea of silencing voices, preventing full discourse and denying a sense of humanity becomes the key elements of intolerance, representing it as a theme in the drama.

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Salem is a community full of people who are largely intolerant of dissent.  Reverend Parris's primary concern is not the spiritual well-being of his community but rather protecting his own position of authority.  He fears that his enemies will learn of the girls' activities and use them against him; he believes there's a faction in the community that seeks to unseat him, and he accuses anyone who disagrees with him of being a part of that faction.  The Putnams are also incredibly intolerant of dissent.  Mrs. Putnam is so committed to her belief that witches are responsible for the deaths of her children that she snaps at Rebecca Nurse for suggesting otherwise.  Mr. Putnam has been humiliated by the dissent he's faced in the village—in regard to his father's will, his political candidate, and so forth—and he cannot brook opposition without becoming defensive and hostile.

The people of Salem are also largely intolerant of difference.  Sarah Good is poor, and she is an outcast.  Tituba is black, and so she is enslaved and thought to be untrustworthy (consider the fact that no proof at all is required for all to believe Abigail's accusations of her).  The destitute, people of color, and women are especially likely to be accused of wrongdoing.

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