Examine the meaning of the following quote from Act I in The Crucible: “This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honoured among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly...

Examine the meaning of the following quote from Act I in The Crucible:

“This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honoured among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness.”

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akannan's profile pic

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

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The original question had to be edited.  I invite you to resubmit the other part in another question.  I think that Miller uses the idea of people in Salem "minding other people's business" to help explain why the witch trials took a hold in Salem so rapidly and with so much fervor.  Miller's initial construction of the community of Salem is one in which people are shown to be concerned with others.  This concern is not a sincere one, as much as a paranoia or obsession with what others are doing.  

This helps to feed Miller's vision of a community that is inwardly drawn.  It is this predilection that helps to drive the judgmental nature of the community. Miller suggests that an event like the witch trials could happen with frightening ease because of such a "predilection."  The witch trials helped to pass judgment on others, to determine that a particular person was either wrong or right in who they were and how they lived.  Miller feels that the obsession with others and a lack of internal reflection regarding oneself are intrinsic elements to Salem's composition that enable an event like the witch trials to happen.  The desire to mind what other people were doing and to pass judgment on it are cultural realities of Salem that Miller felt animated the witch trials.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In Act I of The Crucible, Arthur Miller provides background information for his audience on the Puritan faith, a faith that has little tolerance for indolence or sin.

The work ethic is so strong among the Puritans that there is a patrol assigned to watch for those who are inattentive to their work or who transgress in any moral way. While this watchfulness of others lest they transgress seems at first a worthy moral occupation, it later becomes one of restrictiveness and even persecution:

...social disorder in any age breeds such mystical suspicions, and when, as in Salem, wonders are brought forth from below the social surface, ...people...lay on the victims with all the force of their frustrations.

Thus, the predilection for "minding other people's business" then grows into a fault-finding occupation, which, in turn, leads to false suspicions. It is in this progression that the witch-hunt develops as the social order deteriorates and people begin to accuse others with the might of their imaginings and vexation with situations.

Arthur Miller suggests, therefore, that the tendency of the Puritans to watch others, seeking fault in them in order to promote themselves as opposed to practicing self-evaluation and improvement, leads to the prejudicial nature, intolerance, and cruelty of the Salem witch trials.

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