Why would power be desirable in Salem?

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

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I think that power is seen as desirable in the outset of the play because the construction of political dynamics that Miller offers features a strict hierarchy of "insider" and "outsider."  Miller shows Salem to be a social setting where there is a definite "insider" realm and this is associated with power.  It is for this reason that power is seen as desirable in Salem.  It is also for this reason that Abigail is able to do what she does.  After being dismissed by Elizabeth and being unable to lure John, Abigail finds herself outside of a realm of power.  In order to gain power, she launches into her deception regarding witches, the devil, and the emotional contagion that ends up striking at who has power and who lacks it.  Abigail demonstrates, through Miller's own construction, how the strict hierarchy of power constructed on binary dualism can be easily twisted and infiltrated.  Power is something that is desirable in Salem if one is located within that realm of being "inside."  It is only through the ending of the drama where the citizens begin to rebel against those who are exerting power from this position of "the insider" and when Abigail ends up leaving Salem does power become transformed into something more inclusive and less exclusive.

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