In The Crucible, how do the witch trials empower individuals who were previously powerless?I'd like this answered in a detailed essay like format please.  It's the best way for me to comprehend,...

In The Crucible, how do the witch trials empower individuals who were previously powerless?

I'd like this answered in a detailed essay like format please.  It's the best way for me to comprehend, thank you.

Expert Answers
Jane Ames eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question centers around the idea of social mobility—who has it, how they use it, and how the whole framework gets tossed in the air in the midst of the witch trials. In the context of late-seventeenth-century Bay Colony society, few other people besides white, land-owning men possess any real rights or influence in the eyes of the law. The witch trials—both in real life and in this play—created a strange opportunity for women, people of color, the young, the disabled, and other undervalued members of Puritan society.

Consider Tituba's position. As an enslaved woman, she has absolutely no rights. When she is questioned about whether she facilitated the young girls dancing in the woods, she frantically confesses to communicating with the devil and begins to accuse others of witchcraft. In the eyes of the law, a person could be granted immunity if they accused another person of witchcraft. This, quite obviously, led to many false accusations and confessions. Tituba, who otherwise would have suffered severe and unjust persecution for dancing in the woods, is able to save herself by playing into this blame game. She temporarily can enact her status as an accuser to suspend any blame placed on her.

Abigail quickly recognizes what Tituba is doing and joins right in. Abigail has a childish romantic obsession with John Proctor and a vendetta against his wife, Elizabeth. Yet she is a young girl and an adulterer to boot—once again, very few rights to speak of in the context of this setting. However, she too leverages her position as an accuser in the whole witchcraft mania and is able to put innocent adults in serious peril.

The trials enable Tituba to preserve herself and allow Abigail to cast away blame and enact her revenge. While at first glance Abigail's action hardly seems like "empowerment," it should be considered that she is a young girl and that Proctor, a fully grown man, took advantage of her. In short, the trials create an environment in which guilt and innocence are turned on their heads, and those who otherwise would have no say with the leaders of their society, or in the courts, are suddenly quite powerful.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Enotes editors are encouraged to answer questions in about 90 words. Often, our responses are longer, but a detailed essay is not the format we are instructed to give here. Our role is to certainly help lead you to ideas that will help YOU create a detailed essay!

Since you put this question in The Crucible, I will answer according to the events of that story while addressing the larger idea of the events of the true Salem Witch Trials.

The individuals who would have felt entirely powerless during the Puritan era would have been servants, children, women, and people who did not own land. Ironically, the girls who were given power by the magistrates who believed them fit all 4 of the aforementioned categories. For the first time in their lives, these girls were being listened to and their words meant consequences would happen for others. That was a great amount of power after having been previously powerless. The Crucibe gives these girls various teenage ages for the sake of the story and growing the manipulative power of Abigail Williams. However, research shows that they were much closer to the ages of children who were very likely well manipulated by the Putnams. In this regard, the Putnams previously had felt powerless because they had a new choice for minister that the town did not agree with and they felt slighted because of that. Now, with the children acting as puppets in their hands, the Putnams felt great power over both the new local minister and their enemy John Proctor.