In The Crucible, what is wrong in Salem's society and what is Miller trying to show in this?

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

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Miller is trying to suggest that there are some distinct elements that are wrong in Salem society.  In illuminating these social flaws, he is suggesting that such naively human traits must be understood in order to be avoided. Some of the best examples of this exist in the extensive stage directions in the drama's exposition.  One such example would be when Miller talks about the intrusive nature of Salem society.  Miller believes that the ability to interfere in the lives of others was one of the most destructive elements of the social order: "This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honored among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness." This "predilection for minding other people's business" was a part of why children were not encouraged to be children, but rather "little adults."  The fundamental crime that sets the witch trials in motion was the girls dancing in the forest.  Miller suggests that this mentality is what enables the trials to take form.

Another element that Miller suggests is fundamentally wrong with Salem society was their self- perception.  Miller suggests that the perception that Salemites had of themselves was one of persecution and victimization: 

For these reasons, among others, they carried about an air of innate resistance, even of persecution. Their fathers had, of course, been persecuted in England. So now they and their church found it necessary to deny any other sect its freedom...

Miller suggests that their own sense of feeling victimized made it easier for them to victimize others.  Miller suggests that such a mentality is problematic for any sort of social cohesion to emerge.  In showing this, Miller makes the argument that Salem society's mentality enabled something like the witch trials to happen with relative ease.  

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