In The Crucible, Salem is portrayed as a small community with a high degree of homogeneity in backgrounds and professed beliefs. This, however, has not made it at all cohesive. In fact, alienation is one of the keynotes from the very beginning. The Reverend Parris is alienated from his congregation, most of whom did not choose him and many of whom regard him as an avaricious and mean-spirited man who never mentions God in his sermons. Parris has brought Tituba and Abigail into the community. The former is alienated by race and religion, the latter by her status as a poor relation and her traumatic childhood.
Thomas Putnam and Giles Corey are alienated from the community by their litigious natures and suspicion of their neighbors. John Proctor is alienated from his wife by his adultery. The first people to be accused of witchcraft, Goody Osburn and Goody Good, are alienated as outcasts who do not conform to the moral and social norms of Salem.
In a community where so many people are alienated, the witch-hunt brings a whole new level of alienation. People suspect their neighbors of being in league with the devil but, at the same time, understand enough of the random, unjust nature of the proceedings to fear being accused themselves. In act 4, Hale describes the scenes in Salem to Danforth:
Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlots' cry will end his life
By the end of the play, social cohesion has broken down completely and everyone is alienated, trapped in a private world of suspicion and terror.