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Depictions of alienation and isolation in The Crucible

Summary:

In The Crucible, alienation and isolation are depicted through characters like John Proctor, who feels isolated due to his moral stance and past sins, and Tituba, who is alienated because of her race and status. The hysteria of the witch trials further isolates individuals as fear and distrust spread, breaking down community bonds and leading to widespread paranoia.

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How is alienation portrayed in The Crucible?

In The Crucible, Salem is portrayed as a small community with a high degree of homogeneity in backgrounds and professed beliefs. This, however, has not made it at all cohesive. In fact, alienation is one of the keynotes from the very beginning. The Reverend Parris is alienated from his congregation, most of whom did not choose him and many of whom regard him as an avaricious and mean-spirited man who never mentions God in his sermons. Parris has brought Tituba and Abigail into the community. The former is alienated by race and religion, the latter by her status as a poor relation and her traumatic childhood.

Thomas Putnam and Giles Corey are alienated from the community by their litigious natures and suspicion of their neighbors. John Proctor is alienated from his wife by his adultery. The first people to be accused of witchcraft, Goody Osburn and Goody Good, are alienated as outcasts who do not conform to the moral and social norms of Salem.

In a community where so many people are alienated, the witch-hunt brings a whole new level of alienation. People suspect their neighbors of being in league with the devil but, at the same time, understand enough of the random, unjust nature of the proceedings to fear being accused themselves. In act 4, Hale describes the scenes in Salem to Danforth:

Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlots' cry will end his life

By the end of the play, social cohesion has broken down completely and everyone is alienated, trapped in a private world of suspicion and terror.

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How is alienation portrayed in The Crucible?

Alienation plays a significant role in the witch trials. The alienated members of society are typically the most vulnerable, defenseless individuals, who suffer the consequences of being falsely accused. Tituba is considered an alienated individual in the town of Salem because she is an African slave. Tragically, Tituba becomes a scapegoat and is the first person accused of engaging in witchcraft. In order to protect herself from being hanged or beaten to death, Tituba accuses two other alienated citizens. Sarah Good and Goody Osburn are both alienated members of the Puritan society, who are considered outcasts and have bad reputations.

As the hysteria surrounding witchcraft grows and the proceedings begin, anyone who challenges the officials alienates themselves and becomes a target. Notably, Giles Corey is arrested and pressed to death after alienating himself, challenging the judges, and refusing to support the court. Mary Warren also becomes a victim when she alienates herself from Abigail and the girls. Abigail begins to act like Mary's spirit is attacking her, which threatens Mary's life and influences her to change her position. In act three, Danforth says,

"But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between" (Miller, 97).

Danforth's comment is significant and reveals how alienation is threatening and dangerous in the Puritan community during the Salem witch trials. Citizens who are viewed as outcasts or are in the minority are falsely accused of witchcraft and their lives are threatened.

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How is alienation portrayed in The Crucible?

Abigail Williams is undoubtedly alienated from those around her in many respects. And this sense of alienation is one of the driving factors behind her active involvement in the Salem witch-craze. Abby is one of life's outsiders, and her outsider status is reinforced by her bad reputation. Word has got around in this small town that Abby's trouble with a capital T and that when it comes to sexual propriety, she's not exactly pure as the driven snow.

After being summarily dismissed from the Proctors' service, Abby's pretty much on her own. Her sense of social alienation is now almost complete. It says a lot about Abby that the only way she can re-establish any kind of connection to the people around her is through embarking on a campaign of lies and false accusations. Even at the height of her powers, when just one word from those lying lips of hers is enough to condemn some poor wretch to hang, she's still alienated from everyone else, still trapped in her own little world of vengeance and delusion.

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How is alienation portrayed in The Crucible?

Alienation occurs when a person withdraws himself or herself or their affections from something or someone to whom they used to be attached. Therefore, John Proctor becomes alienated from his wife when he chooses (prior to the play's beginning) to have an affair with another woman, and he later becomes alienated from that other woman -- Abigail Williams -- when he severs their connection and ends their relationship. Elizabeth Proctor is certainly alienated by her husband's choices, and we see her withdrawal of affection when she merely "receives his kiss" in Act II, and Elizabeth and John's ability to communicate effectively as a result of this alienation, perhaps, prevents John from telling the truth that he knows before it is too late.

Abigail is likewise alienated by John's choices, and it seems probable that this alienation prompted her to manipulate the witch hysteria so that she could accuse Elizabeth, eliminate her, and get John all to herself. Therefore, the alienation that occurs among these three characters as a result of John's initial indiscretion (a sin, for them) is actually a really important aspect of the plot.

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How is alienation portrayed in The Crucible?

Alienation is woven throughout the plot of The Crucible and involves many of the characters. Tituba is alienated from the town of Salem because of her race and the perception that she is a witch. Abigail is alienated first from the Proctor family and then from Salem as a whole because of her lies. Mary Warren is alienated from the other girls because she threatens to expose the truth. John Proctor is alienated from his wife because of his affair and then alienates himself from his own faith and religion in response to the town's accusations. Mr. Hale is alienated from his own sense of truth and reality because of what he observes in the town. These are just few of examples of alienation throughout the play. 

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How is isolation portrayed in The Crucible?

The village is above all culturally isolated as much as physically. Though there are Native tribes all around, they are never shown or even mentioned. Though the French and Dutch are within traveling distance, they also are never shown or mentioned. Though the Puritans are only a minority among English colonists, no other religious points of view are shown or mentioned. The sole other belief system presented is the slave Tituba's African spiritual traditions. They and all other beliefs outside of Puritanism are presented as the work of the Devil, witchcraft, and sins by Devil worshipers conspiring against God.

Distance also separates their homes, with each farm worked by a family rather than communally. Their faith also isolates them in other ways. Their suspicions lead to fear of each other, leading to physically avoiding each other and regarding falsely accused Devil worshipers as "the other."

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How is isolation portrayed in The Crucible?

Isolation is portrayed in a few different ways in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Reverend Parris wants to isolate the rumors about witchcraft within his home. He tells Susanna Walcott to "speak nothing of unnatural causes" within the village. By isolating the number of people who could hear about the rumor, he tries to ensure that his name and reputation are not ruined. Also, when Abigail suggests that he go down and speak to the people in his parlor, Parris refuses to admit that he discovered his daughter (Betty) and niece (Abigail) dancing in the woods. He knows that if this information got out, it would ensure his reputation and name were ruined.

More literally, John Proctor isolates himself from Parris and Parris's church. Proctor is unhappy with Parris's sermons about golden candlesticks and fire-and-brimstone. He finds no good in Parris. Because of this, Proctor refuses to attend church—isolating himself from both Parris and the congregation.

One final way that isolation is depicted in the play is the village's isolation from other villages. The villagers themselves, for the most part, stay within the boundaries of the village. The forest and areas surrounding the village are, essentially, off-limits to the villagers. It is looked down upon for any of the villagers to go beyond the boundaries of the village itself (as readers see with the girls' dancing in the forest). They keep to themselves and do not look to things that other villages are doing (as seen with the witchcraft accusations in Beverly and dismantling of the courts in Andover).

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How is isolation portrayed in The Crucible?

John Proctor is somewhat isolated, as far as the other people of Salem are concerned, because of his stance on the church.  He strongly—and openly—dislikes the Reverend Parris, and this has kept him away from church on many Sundays.  He has also likely stayed away because of his previous affair with Abigail; Elizabeth, his wife, even says that "[Abigail] cannot pass [John] in church but [he] will blush."  Church, I am sure, is quite uncomfortable when one is being lectured by a man one thinks is a hypocrite while being stared at by a former lover.

Proctor's isolationism comes back to bite him when his wife's name is brought up in court.  Reverend Hale comes to visit and reproaches John for only coming to church twenty-six times in seventeen months; it is not a good record.  Further, his youngest son has not been baptized, because John "like[s] it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon [John's] baby.  [He] sees no light of God in that man."  Elizabeth's arrest warrant is issued later that evening.

Isolation, then, is presented as something dangerous.  John and his wife become a target of the powers that be in Salem because he has been quite vocal about at least one of his reasons for keeping to himself.  Parris has been left to imagine the worst—that John is leading a powerful faction again him (which is not true) because John has remained isolated from certain community members.

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How does Arthur Miller depict isolation in The Crucible?

The characters in the play are indeed isolated from each other. The witch craze has taken such a viselike grip on Salem that everyone's forced to look out for themselves. What had been a close-knit community has been turned by the prevailing hysteria into a collection of atomized individuals, each one desperately trying to avoid false accusations of witchcraft.

This is what often happens in modern totalitarian societies. If people turn against each other, then that makes them less likely to challenge the existing authority. It's much easier, and safer, to make false accusations of witchcraft to settle an old score than it is to stand up and say that the whole witch hunt is nothing more than a tissue of lies. And even when John Proctor does precisely that, he remains, if anything, an even more isolated figure than ever before, as no one's prepared to join him in his act of selfless martyrdom.

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How does Arthur Miller depict isolation in The Crucible?

John Proctor has certainly become more isolated. He tells Abigail that he's hardly left his farm in the last seven months, likely as a result of his affair with her being found out by his wife. It seems as though he's been trying to prove to her that the affair and the feelings that went with it are over. We also learn that Proctor does not care for the Reverend Parris; he makes it quite clear in Act One while at Parris's house to observe the ailing Betty. However, in Act Two, Reverend Hale comes to the Proctor home to ask some questions, and he reproaches Proctor with his habitual failure to attend church: he's been to services only twenty-six times in seventeen months. Moreover, his third child has not been baptized. Proctor's severe dislike of Parris has kept him isolated. It is also, likely, his embarrassment about his affair with Abigail that has kept him distant; even his wife says that Abigail cannot pass Proctor in church without him blushing.

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