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Miller begins his notes for Act 1 by introducing problems that already exist in Salem before the play's actions begin. His introduction not only foreshadows the escalation of divisiveness and struggles for power that occur throughout the play, but it also symbolizes the problems that existed in America before the Red Scare began. Below are several of the issues brewing in the introduction.
1. The town has a pastor who doesn't seem to care about the true spiritual welfare of his parishioners. Miller opens with a scathing description of Rev. Parris by writing,
"In history, [Rev. Parris] cut a villainous path. . . . He was a widower with no interest in children, or talent with them."
He goes on to say that Parris is paranoid about his congregation persecuting him and trying to expel him from the Salem pulpit. Obviously, any town with a pastor such as this, especially when it is supposed to be a religious community, is ripe for infighting.
2. The town is a somber, exacting place. Miller claims that
"the people were forced to fight the land like heroes for every grain of corn, and no man had very much time for fooling around."
Evidently, living in a place like this--especially as a young person--one would look for some form of entertainment. This leads to not only the girls' dancing, conjuring, and lying, but also to the townspeople being so wrapped up in the trials at their beginning. They would have been the only form of "entertainment" much like the guillotine for French commoners during their revolution.
3. Miller also mentions that the small religious community was home to people who liked to mind "other people's business." Gossip was rampant, and because of the town's religious nature, gossip from the church/town hierarchy is accepted as truth.
All of these elements fomenting before the play's action encourage what eventually happens to Proctor and others who try to maintain a voice of reason and rise above these original issues.
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