In The Crucible, what Puritan primary fear is apparent in the philosophy, "In unity still lay the best promise of safety"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller's stage directions to open the drama help to give some theoretical underpinnings to the Salem condition.  These help to illuminate why the Witch Trials took hold in a place like Salem, reflective of much in Colonial American life.  The idea of "unity" being synonymous with "safety" was a part of this.  Miller's idea here is that the philosophy of Salem did not permit for dissent and individualism.  Rather, conformity and being part of the larger group was seen as a source of safety for individuals.  If individuals did not possess individual elements of identity and did not "stick out," they felt protected by the group.  They felt that safety would be part of their existence if they did not hold onto any ideas of being individualist or being different.  If the group was wrong, there was still safety.  In a world of forests where "the unknown lurked" or conditions of the world which lay beyond the grasp of the individual, there could still be safety in remaining with the group.  The collective entity helped to provide a place where people could experience hope, love, or even the mere need to belong.  Miller makes it clear that this philosophy trumped all else.  It is for this reason that children were reared to be mini- adults, the "predilection" in minding other people's business, and demonstrate a firm demonstration of what was seen as "right" and that which was seen as "wrong."  In Salem, the fear of the unknown and the fear of not having "an answer" for it helped to drive the idea that in unity existed the best hope for safety in a condition.  It represented a vain and futile hope to escape from the larger questions that plagued individual consciousness that few, if any, could hope to answer.

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The Crucible

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