What are two examples of themes that appear in Act 1 of "The Crucible"? Specifically human cruelty in the name of righteousness, individuality vs community, justice vs retribution and...

What are two examples of themes that appear in Act 1 of "The Crucible"?

Specifically human cruelty in the name of righteousness, individuality vs community, justice vs retribution and revenge, ignorance vs wisdom, and order vs individual freedom.

Asked on by kodysgink

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Human cruelty/righteousness 

Tituba being whipped by Reverend Parris, in order to get to the truth about what was going on in the woods.

Tituba confesses to witchcraft, naming the names of innocent people because Parris and Hale demand it.


John Proctor is acting in an individual way when he chooses to not attend church because he does not like Parris.  The community demands that all members attend church without question.

The community rises up in an act of hysteria against those who are accused of witchcraft.  As individuals they are powerless against the community.


Thomas Putnam seeks retribution against Nurse because she did not vote for his candidate for Pastor.

Mrs. Putnam seeks retribution for the death of her 7 infants, she claims it is justice, but it is revenge.


The causes of things that the Puritans did not understand were blamed on witchcraft.

Betty's illness, which is faked, Parris is too ignorant to see it. Rebecca Nurse is smarter she knows the girl is faking.

Proctor has a singular wisdom regarding the whole witchcraft hysteria, he thinks that people will see the truth, but ignorance and fear win out.

Order/individual freedom

In an effort to restore order to the town hundreds are arrested and accused of witchcraft to protect the village.  Individual freedom has no value, people are simply thrown in jail.


favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Certainly, the desperation of Mrs. Putnam compared with the surety and humility of Rebecca Nurse illustrates the theme of ignorance versus wisdom. Mrs. Putnam is terribly superstitious, and she believes that there must be some supernatural reason for the deaths of seven of her eight children. While Rebecca admits that she cannot understand why such a tragedy has befallen Mrs. Putnam, she believes that they all "ought [to] rely on the doctor now, and good prayer." Mrs. Putnam, on the other hand, sent her only surviving child to Tituba, Reverend Parris's slave, to conjure the spirits of her dead babies to find out who is the witch that is responsible for their deaths. Rebecca has the wisdom to know that she cannot understand everything and that it is best to turn their questions inward or give them to her God. Mrs. Putnam, on the other hand, is so desperate to blame someone for her misfortunes that her ignorance helps to ignite the hysteria in Salem.

In terms of the theme of order versus individual freedom, Reverend Parris claims that "There is either obedience or the church will burn like Hell is burning!" He is angry that the community doesn't respect him the way he believes he deserves to be respected, and he uses his authority to insist on order and obedience. He tries to deny parishioners individual freedom because their independence makes his position and authority vulnerable; if they obey him, however, he retains authority and maintains his position.

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