What insights about the Puritans do you gain from reading The Crucible?What insights about the Puritans do you gain from reading the Crucible- insights you normally don't find in a History textbook?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A few statements about Puritan society are revealed through Miller's play that might not be present in a History textbook.  One such idea is the inherent danger in any society that embraces only one notion of the good.  Miller examines the Salem Witchcraft Trials as a failure of society's responsibility to assert the right of fairness to the individual.  He is able to make this claim because of the Puritans highly dogmatic view of religion and its pervasive effect in all aspects of society.  In the Puritanical sense of the world, the ability to be pure and aligned with God's wishes is the singular notion of the good that governs this social setting.  This means that individuals must be act in accordance to their hierarchical institutions, and in the Puritan's case, the church.  Individuals who were deemed as "unholy" or "inferior" by ordained members of the church were subjected to excommunication, ostracizing, and, in the case of Salem, death.  Miller makes the critical point that when social orders are governed by singular notions of the good without any sort of safeguard for protection, the rights and liberties of all persons are placed in perilous danger.

Another point Miller makes about Puritanical society that might not be readily stated in a textbook is the danger of individuals who profess to be "pure", yet operate with ulterior motives.  When Reverend Parris acts in the interests of the social order, he does so with the attempt to consolidate his own power.  When Abigail comes forth with her accusations, she covets John Proctor, and has little, if any, interests in the social notion of the good.  There is a danger present in any social order when individuals who advocate the notion of purity and singularity actually seek to advance ulterior or self serving agendas.  This is not to indict the Puritan notion of spirituality, yet it does shed light on the idea such an idea could be easily manipulated for individualized agendas.