How is conformity presented in Arthur Miller's The Crucible?

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

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Conformity is shown to be a fairly brutal element in the drama.  In the introduction to a Penguin Publishing version of Miller's drama, Christopher Bigsby writes about this idea of conformity and the lack of it:

The Crucible is about a time in history where people found the comfort of the community at any costs more beneficial than the discomfort of standing up for what is right.

In this light, the drama presents the fundamental issue of human consciousness as one poised between these incompatible ends of being.  Individuals in the drama must choose if they wish to embrace the comfort of the community, sacrificing one another in the process, or if they wish to stand for something that is more transcendent, and suffer greatly as a result.  The battle between the temporal and contingent identity of conformity and the transcendent, yet painful nobility of independent thought is something that all of the characters have to endure on some level.  It is evident throughout Proctor's own maturation throughout the drama.  His desire to not want to be involved and to retreat is something that faces collision with a growing and menacing threat in which action and confrontation becomes a moral responsibility.  Mary Warren endures this in visceral and physical terms with her testimony in open court, trying to face down Abigail and embodying the very essence of "discomfort."  Her "crucible" in this instance ends with her running back to the community in the form of Abigail's arms and condemning Proctor.  In the end, how characters respond to the polarity of conformity with a known wrong and a lack of conformity in standing up for what is honorable and decent in a world that lacks such values becomes the essence of both Miller's play and the time period that envelops both it and the reader.

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