The essay sample on Lust In The Crucible dwells on its problems, providing a shortened but comprehensive overview of basic facts and arguments related to it. To read the essay, scroll down.
“Ours is a divided empire in which certain ideas and emotions and actions are of God, and their opposites are of Lucifer. It is as impossible for most men to conceive of a morality without sin as of an earth without ‘sky’ ” (Miller 1252). This is the introduction of sin in the Puritan world in The Crucible, and how it is irrevocably entwined with virtue.
Yet it is sin that is the driving force in Arthur Miller’s play, fully illustrating human nature: its limits and lack thereof.
From the origins of the witch hunt in Abigail’s lust and its continuation in Thomas Putnam’s greed to its climax in John Proctor’s wrath, Arthur Miller’s play demonstrates the catastrophes that occur when an entire town is driven by sin.
The Crucible’s major events and characters are shaped by lust and envy, vanity, greed, and wrath. The entire Salem Witch Hunt is caused by the mutual lust between John Proctor and Abigail Williams, and her envy of Elizabeth Proctor that resulted from the affair.
Although the play starts after the affair, the reader learns about it in a rather dramatic fashion, as Abigail shouts at John Proctor that “I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I came near! … you loved me then and you do now! ” (Miller 1246).
Peterson 2 It is clear that she still longs for him, in fact, she states it baldly that she lusts for him still- very unlike a proper Puritan girl.
Proctor, very much aware of his black sin of lust and the stain upon his soul as a result, tries to absolve himself by denying it ever happened, which infuriates Abigail to no end: “You loved me, John, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet! ” (Miller 1247). Indeed, it is Proctor’s awareness of his sins that causes him to initially “confess” his witchcraft near the end of the play: “Miller describes Proctor as ‘a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of decent conduct… Proctor has come to view himself as a fraud” (Johnson 71).
He protests that he is not a saint… yet, in the end, he cannot further discredit his name, and realizes that by declaring himself a witch, he condemns those to be hanged as witches as well. But the entire witch hunt was caused by the affair and Abigail’s resulting envy, that initially prompted the dancing and conjuring in the woods with Tituba and the girls; Reverend Parris caught them at it and sent his daughter Betty into shock, which sent rumors of witchcraft spiraling around Salem and the surrounding area. Abigail also drank blood as part of a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor.
This depravity all resulted from the sins of lust and envy, directly correlated in particular case, in the complicated love triangle of Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor, and Abigail Williams. It was not only lust and sin that prompted the Salem Witch Trials, but also vanity. Vanity is, arguably, the least dangerous of all seven sins, yet in this case it is perhaps the most dangerous. Reverend Parris’ own veneration for his high position and reputation as preacher led him to fear discovery of witchcraft in his household; such that Abigail’s accusations of other women as witches in fact saves him.
He thus encourages it, perhaps trying to weed out the “parties” in the church who dislike him as preacher. Judge Danforth is another guilty of Peterson 3 vanity, again with his reputation. Yet the cost of his vanity is much higher than that of Parris’: although it is Parris who encouraged the witch hunt hysteria, it is Danforth who condemned or pardoned the witches. In Act IV, Danforth has the authority to postpone the hangings when doubt arises as to the authenticity of the witches due to hang the coming morning.
Yet Danforth does not postpone the hangings, because any doubt raised about these witches would be doubt raised about the validity of the other witches already hanged: “I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement… Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now” (Miller 1324). Despite Hale’s urging and Parris’ pleas, Danforth refuses to budge- and more innocents are hanged due to his perverse sense of justice. It is Proctor’s vanity, however, that strikes one the most.
His vanity, again of his reputation, prevents him from revealing the root cause of the witch hysteria, and that Abigail herself revealed to him no witchcraft is involved, merely dancing. It is not until the truth will not derail the hysteria, not until that it is too late, that Proctor realizes he needs to expose their affair, in order to discredit Abigail. Yet his effort fails; her hold over Salem is too great. Greed is yet another major sin that led to and continues the Salem witch hunt. Most notable, of course, is Abigail and her cohorts, with their evident greed for power.
Merely by pointing fingers, screaming, fainting, and having fits they can declare anybody in town a witch- and the entire town, with the exception of a select few, believes them. Such power is heady, as they prove by wreaking their petty vengeances upon the town. Another figure worth noting with greed is Thomas Putnam. Miller writes, “Land-lust which had been expressed before by constant bickering over boundaries and deeds, could now be elevated to the arena of morality; one could cry witch against one’s neighbor and feel perfectly justified
Peterson 4 in the bargain” (Miller 1237), as Thomas Putnam illustrates. His daughter Ruth accuses George Jacobs, their neighbor who also holds land that Putnam covets, of being a witch. As Giles Corey points out in his deposition, “If Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit up his property… there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for their land! ” (Miller 1299). Putnam, of course, denies it- and in the end it is Corey who is accused of being a witch, and killed by torture.
As Bloom’s Major Dramatists bluntly puts it, Thomas Putnam is “a vindictive man. He is the community’s strongest supporter of the trials, using them for personal vengeance” (Bloom 61). Wrath is perhaps the most notable in The Crucible, being the most dramatic. The least noticed is the squabbling among the various factions in Salem, such as a land war between Francis Nurse and a Putnam. This grew into an actual battle in the woods that lasted for two days.
In fact, Putnams signed the first complaint against Rebecca Nurse, Ruth Putnam first accused her of witchcraft, and even Mrs.Putnam joined the fray by accusing Rebecca of “tempting her to iniquity” (Miller 1248). Abigail, of course, appears again as guilty of yet another sin. Her wrath is apparent when Mary Warren betrays her and reveals that they were all merely pretending to see spirits. She quickly turns on Mary and accuses her of witchery, “spotting” a little yellow bird on the beam: “to the ceiling, in a genuine conversation with the “bird,” as though trying to talk it out of attacking her: But God made my face; you cannot want to tear my face.
Envy is a deadly sin, Mary” (Miller 1312). Her wrath eventually achieves her aim: to scare Mary back into accusing witches with her, but has an unexpected consequence: John Proctor is accused of witchcraft. But before this, John Proctor finally comes to the court against Abigail with Mary Warren, Francis Nurse, and Giles Corey. One by one they are discredited by the judges, until John finally bursts: “How do you call Heaven! Whore!