Is there a specific quote or scene in The Crucible that illustrates the impact of conformity on the village?I am trying to write about how the conformity of the theocracy prevented people from...
Is there a specific quote or scene in The Crucible that illustrates the impact of conformity on the village?
I am trying to write about how the conformity of the theocracy prevented people from thinking independently or gaining self-awareness.
In The Crucible Arthur Miller presents us with a terrifying vision of mass conformity. He doesn't in any way seek to condone that vision, but he does try to help us understand it and why it happens. Here are the stage notes from Act I:
"The Salem tragedy… developed from a paradox… Simply, it was this: for good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies."
Miller is acknowledging that the desire for conformity can be perfectly legitimate. Societies need to have some degree of coherence, something that holds them together. A society simply cannot function properly without some semblance of conformity to common values. Otherwise it will fall apart. That said, it's the dangerous, destructive aspect of conformity which is highlighted throughout the play. And Miller suggests that it is not simply individual acts of conformity that lead to widespread persecution, it's the way in which the community is itself structured:
"It was forged for a necessary purpose and accomplished that purpose. But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space… The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom."
Conformity inevitably means that those who don't fit in will be excluded and, in some cases, persecuted. Whether it's at high school or in a workplace or among a circle of friends, conformity is an ever-present component of our daily lives. But when it constitutes the foundation of a whole society, especially one that believes itself to be ordained by God, then any form of individuality will be stamped out and crushed. And that's precisely what happens in The Crucible.
Abigail, although quite the villian in the play, does have some pretty thought-provoking things to say about conformity in the village, and how it leads people to hypocrisy and blindness. In the opening act, when she is speaking to John, she rages,
"I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men!"
In this quote, she is saying that in the village, all of the people preach righteousness, but hold wickedness in their hearts. That stifling of unaccepted thoughts and behaviors actually fuels the accusations, and people let out long-held temptations and feelings against other people.
One last quote from Abby comes in a scene that isn't always included in the play, so I don't know if you have it in your version. It falls under Act Two, Scene Two, when it is added. She meets John in the woods and states,
"I used to weep for my sins when the wind lifted up my skirts; and blushed for shame because some old Rebecca called me loose...I saw them all--walking like saints to church...God gave me strength to call them liars."
She again rails against the mindless righteousness of the women, and sets herself up as knowing more, knowing her own mind. Abby, who goes against the rules of society by being with John, IS a very self-aware character; unfortunately, she is driven to attain what she wants at any costs. But at least she knows herself and what she does want.