What were the purposes of the Salem theocracy in The Crucible?

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

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The fundamental purpose of the theocracy in Salem was to ensure that individuals are bound to a strict moral code of conduct in both personal and political terms.  In linking God to the political setting, Salem citizens were content with not having a public and private distinction.  Everything was subject to spiritual scrutiny on all levels, confirming that the people of Salem walked with " a candle to light the world," as Miller suggests.  The theocracy was designed to bolster this, judging individuals on both political and spiritual levels.  At the same time, the theocratic rule allowed individuals with religious backgrounds, such as Parris, to assume unprecedented levels of power.  This is why Parris, and to a lesser extent, Hale, hold so much power in Salem.  It is for this reason that Salem empowered the clergy so much.  At the same time, a theocracy enabled the ruling elite of Salem to inflict power over individuals for breaking moral or spiritual codes of conflict, allowing a greater consolidation of power at the hands of the few over the many.

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