How was alienation displayed in The Crucible?

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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...

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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.

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Alienation plays a significant role in the witch trials. The alienated members of society are typically the most vulnerable, defenseless individuals, who suffer the consequences of being falsely accused. Tituba is considered an alienated individual in the town of Salem because she is an African slave. Tragically, Tituba becomes a scapegoat and is the first person accused of engaging in witchcraft. In order to protect herself from being hanged or beaten to death, Tituba accuses two other alienated citizens. Sarah Good and Goody Osburn are both alienated members of the Puritan society, who are considered outcasts and have bad reputations.

As the hysteria surrounding witchcraft grows and the proceedings begin, anyone who challenges the officials alienates themselves and becomes a target. Notably, Giles Corey is arrested and pressed to death after alienating himself, challenging the judges, and refusing to support the court. Mary Warren also becomes a victim when she alienates herself from Abigail and the girls. Abigail begins to act like Mary's spirit is attacking her, which threatens Mary's life and influences her to change her position. In act three, Danforth says,

"But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between" (Miller, 97).

Danforth's comment is significant and reveals how alienation is threatening and dangerous in the Puritan community during the Salem witch trials. Citizens who are viewed as outcasts or are in the minority are falsely accused of witchcraft and their lives are threatened.

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Abigail Williams is undoubtedly alienated from those around her in many respects. And this sense of alienation is one of the driving factors behind her active involvement in the Salem witch-craze. Abby is one of life's outsiders, and her outsider status is reinforced by her bad reputation. Word has got around in this small town that Abby's trouble with a capital T and that when it comes to sexual propriety, she's not exactly pure as the driven snow.

After being summarily dismissed from the Proctors' service, Abby's pretty much on her own. Her sense of social alienation is now almost complete. It says a lot about Abby that the only way she can re-establish any kind of connection to the people around her is through embarking on a campaign of lies and false accusations. Even at the height of her powers, when just one word from those lying lips of hers is enough to condemn some poor wretch to hang, she's still alienated from everyone else, still trapped in her own little world of vengeance and delusion.

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Alienation occurs when a person withdraws himself or herself or their affections from something or someone to whom they used to be attached. Therefore, John Proctor becomes alienated from his wife when he chooses (prior to the play's beginning) to have an affair with another woman, and he later becomes alienated from that other woman -- Abigail Williams -- when he severs their connection and ends their relationship. Elizabeth Proctor is certainly alienated by her husband's choices, and we see her withdrawal of affection when she merely "receives his kiss" in Act II, and Elizabeth and John's ability to communicate effectively as a result of this alienation, perhaps, prevents John from telling the truth that he knows before it is too late.

Abigail is likewise alienated by John's choices, and it seems probable that this alienation prompted her to manipulate the witch hysteria so that she could accuse Elizabeth, eliminate her, and get John all to herself. Therefore, the alienation that occurs among these three characters as a result of John's initial indiscretion (a sin, for them) is actually a really important aspect of the plot.

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Alienation is woven throughout the plot of The Crucible and involves many of the characters. Tituba is alienated from the town of Salem because of her race and the perception that she is a witch. Abigail is alienated first from the Proctor family and then from Salem as a whole because of her lies. Mary Warren is alienated from the other girls because she threatens to expose the truth. John Proctor is alienated from his wife because of his affair and then alienates himself from his own faith and religion in response to the town's accusations. Mr. Hale is alienated from his own sense of truth and reality because of what he observes in the town. These are just few of examples of alienation throughout the play. 

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