In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Shirley Jackson’s “the Lottery” the main characters, John Proctor, and Ms. Hutchison suffer inhumane treatment due to the societies’ conformity to the beliefs/traditions and the power of the authority in the two towns.
The conformity of the town of Salem is because the government is ruled by the bible. It stated in the beginning that “…Salem developed theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies.” (7) The town of Salem believes strictly on the bible, and does not question its power. If an individual in Salem were to question the words/beliefs of the bible it is seen that they are working with the devil. An example of this from The Crucible is the conversation between John Proctor, Elizabeth and Hale.
Hale: Proctor, let you open with me now, for I have rumour that troubles me. It’s said you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true sir?
Proctor: I know not what i have said, i may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world – although I cannot believe they come among us now.
Hale: Then you do not believe –
Proctor: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.
Hale: And you, woman?
Elizabeth: I-I cannot believe it.
Hale: You cannot!
Proctor: Elizabeth, you bewilder him!
Elizabeth: I cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, and then i must tell you sir, I do not believe it.
Hale: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in-
Elizabeth: If you think that i am one, then I say there are none.
Hale: You surely do not fly against the Gospel, the Gospel-
Proctor: She believe in the Gospel, every word!
Proctor: She do not mean to doubt the Gospel, sir, you cannot think it. This be a Christian house, sir, a Christian house. (69)
This shows that everyone needs to believe in what the bible says, no matter what your own belief is. Anything against it will result in consequences. An example is when because of what Elizabeth had said, her and John Proctor were forced to that they had to come to church every Sunday, and that their last child was to be baptized right away. “It was also and as importantly, a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims.” (7) John Proctor faces serious consequences when he does not agree to sign his name on the paper that confesses and shows everyone in town he saw witches.
Danforth: Come then, sign your testimony. Give it to him. Come, man, sign it.
Proctor: You have all witnessed it-it is enough.
Danforth: You will not sign it? (141)
Proctor: You have all witnessed it; what more is needed?
Danforth: Do you sport with me? You will sign your name or it is no confession, Mister!
Parris: Praise be to the Lord. (142)
This ends up having John Proctor–who went against the bible, to suffer and be hanged.
In “the Lottery”, the lottery has been tradition the town has followed for a long time. An indication that it has been happening for a long time, is because it stated that it has been happening even before the oldest man in town was born. Another indication it is tradition is when Mrs.Huticshson on page 254 comes running into town saying she remembered it was the twenty- seventh. The lottery is something the town takes very seriously. An example to show this is when Mrs. Adams says that the village in the north is thinking of giving up lotteries, and that some have already quit it. Old man Warner replies:
Old Man Warner snorted. “Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them.” “There’s always been a lottery… Nothing but trouble in that”. (256)
Old man Warner’s reply shows how much the town believes in the lottery. Even if people are starting to stop doing it, the town has conformed to what everyone else in the town is doing. Mrs. Hutchinson, who was shown to be the most against it, is the one who ends up suffering the most.
The main characters of both stories suffer inhumane consequences also because of the authority and power of certain individuals. In the Crucible the town of Salem believes in the reverends of the court. The town does not question the authority of the town. This is shown multiple times in the book during court scenes. If anyone went against the political authority it was seen as a sin. The government’s power is clearly stated by Parris.
Parris: “You people seem not to comprehend that a minister is the Lord’s man in the parish; a minister is not to be so lightly crossed and contradicted-“. (30)
The society conforms to the power of the authority. An example is when John Proctor tells Reverend Hale about how he feels about Parris.
Proctor: I like it not that Mr.Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man. I’ll not conceal it. (65)
Hale: I must say it, Mr. Proctor; that is no for you to decide. The man’s ordained; therefore the light of God is in him. (66)
This shows that even if the attitude and person of authority should be questioned, an individual in Salem should not say anything of it. In the end it shows as if because of him saying that of Parris, he suffers.
In “the Lottery” the individual with the most power and authority is Mr. Summers. Everyone in town listens to Mr. Summers because he conducts the lottery, and because he is very good at it. Mr. Summers shows his power and proves how the town trusts him in his conversation with Mrs. Hutchinson. “Daughters draw for their husbands’ families, Tessie,” Mr. Summers said gently. “You know that as well as anyone else.” (257) He is very calm about his authority which allows the town to further believe in his authority. Even her husband Mr. .Hutchinson does not deny his authority and instead tells her to “Shut up”. Her outcry against his authority then leads her to face the consequences.
In conclusion the conformity of the societies in both texts is because of the traditions/beliefs of society and the authority in power in the towns. This ends up in serious consequences for the main two characters because they questioned the authority and beliefs.
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