What is the social repression in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The social repression in Miller's drama is twofold.  On one hand, there is the social repression of adolescence.  The entire reason why Abigail and the girls lie is to evade the punishment for dancing in the woods, naked.  The social repression here is one of childhood, expecting children to be little adults.  Miller brings this out in his extensive stage directions to open the drama.  The childhood expectation that Puritan society has on its children is one of repression, where children were expected to "stand straight" and essentially repress the impulses that define childhood.  From this, the girls' lies and manipulation brings forth another level of social repression in regards to difference in worship.  For the Salem society, religious worship is only to be in one mode, and that mode is to "outdo" the other in religious piety and even supposed piety.  The social repression lies in how Salem society views those who do not demonstrate fervor in their repression. This becomes social repression when the trials start to move towards those who are "different," an element where social repression becomes the force of the cultural majority to target "the other." Hale's questioning of John and Elizabeth not going to church regularly, as Parris' accusations of John of not being religious because of this, as well as the targeting of individuals like Tituba and others who are seen as "different" represents the element of social repression in the drama. From this, one sees how the initial victims of social repression in turn become the perpetrators of social repression, an application of the theme of victims becoming victimizers.  This is where social repression becomes a critical element of Miller's drama.