Belonging: Salem Witch Trials and Society Assignment

Belonging: Salem Witch Trials and Society Assignment Words: 3841

These experiences are part of belonging, and an individual is often left with the choice of choosing whether the sacrifice of goosing ones individual identity and conforming to a group, whether it be a society, belief or authority or choosing to hold onto individuality, independence and freedom is right for them as an individual. This moral dilemma is displayed in the stage play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller written in 1 953, based on the Salem witch hunts of Massachusetts in 1692 and the asses anti communist extremist of McCarthy.

The characters of the play are faced with moral dilemma of self righteousness and belonging to ones self or conforming and sacrificing their own beliefs to avoid persecution and isolation from society. Into the Wild’, a film by Sean Penn, is based on the true story of Christopher Mishandles, a man who is faced with the ultimate struggle between belonging to society, a family and relationships between other people and the independence and freedom that he so surely seeks.

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Both texts use techniques such as irony and contrast and setting to convey the ideas of interaction with the people that are around them and the world that they live in and how the experiences shared can change an individual’s perspective on belonging. In the opening scenes of the play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller, key ideas of resection of those who don’t belong and of those who choose not to conform to the strict rules of the Puritan society that the city of Salem believed in and the consequences and perspective of an individual’s need to belong are beginning to be expressed.

Abigail, an orphan of low social standing in the town, who is of a manipulative, vengeful and deceitful manner, who longs to belong in the community as more than just an orphan begins to twist the thoughts and actions of the other girls in the community such as Mary Warren, Betty Paris, Ruth Putnam, Mercy Lewis and Tuba in pope of saving her own dignity and the little respect she holds in the community and to avoid persecution for disobeying the strict puritan belief Of no dancing and recreational activities that herself and other girls in the town participated in the woods the previous night.

By using threats and fright Abigail manipulates Betty, Tuba, Mercy and Mary into sworn secrecy, “Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” (act one).

Through acts of desperation ND vengefulness Abigail is able to take advantage of the talk of witchcraft throughout Salem that Tuba has been accused of. Seeing it as a chance to bring down Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor’s wife’s reputation in order to receive affection from John Proctor Abigail hopes to bring persecution upon her by accusing her of witchcraft, this is seen in act two when Mary Warren informs the Proctors of her mentioning in court.

Abigail is a direct example of how an individual has to choose between conforming to an ideology and loosing moral self consciousness in order to belong, but in this example it enriches Abigail experience of belonging as she gains respect and authority throughout the community. The play allows the audience to witness the persecution of innocence such as that of Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, Goody Osborn and Martha Corey, all of whom are accused of witchcraft and Giles Corey and John Proctor who are arrested for crimes against the court.

These characters uphold a tight belief in truth and honor over conforming to an ideal that they do not believe in, and are therefore isolated and disgraced by the community when refusal to confess to a false accusation Of witchcraft as been set upon them. John Proctor the ‘heroic’ character of the play who makes a strong emphasis on the importance of name and reputation is thrown into inner turmoil as he watches the town turn into hysteria over a fabrication of a scared and lonely girl.

Proctor is a man of respect in the town, but it is present that he and Elizabeth do not follow the theocracy of Salem. By not attending church on Sundays and working on the fields, as he despises Reverend Paris and does not want to attend his church sermons, “l have trouble enough without come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and Lloyd damnation” (act one), Proctor and his family have a sense of disconnection towards the society before the witch trials began.

Elizabeth being a sensible, level headed character finds the whole idea of witchcraft humorous and Proctor being cynical and moderate, can see the desperate plea of the town who is in need of self expression and individual thought. They choose not to belong in order to keep a strong sense of what they believe to be good characteristics and morals. Sale’s hysteria unravels the tight woven knot of conformity and religious ruling, that citizens such as Abigail and Mary Warren who had little respect and authority in the town, gained after claiming witchcraft to be among them.

Authority and power held by Abigail, Deputy- Governor Detonator and Judge Hawthorne over the citizens that did hold respect and honor previously throughout the town such as the Proctors, the Nurses and the Corers who refuse to conform to lies and deceit in order to save them selves from persecution and death from confessing to witchcraft, shows how experiences from the world around them can change their perspectives of belonging into a negative, limiting experience that exposes the lies and indecency that was required in order to belong the hypocritical theocracy.

The inspiration for the play was drawn from the current issue of the asses (the play being written in 1 953) McCarthy, anti communist fight in America and the 17th century witch hunt of Salem, Massachusetts which have a closely relative history with each other and are a form of historical parallelism. Both historical events were the results of extremism, hysteria and terror of a loss of power, authority and sense of belonging in a society.

Miller was able to reconstruct the past events and add dramatic, imaginative expression to create a perspective of the idea of belonging to a society and the hardships and oddities that can arise from the need to belong. Stage directions are used throughout the play to emphasis dramatic effect and to allow the reader a deeper understanding of the characters and Millers ideas of the event of the play can be deeply captured “Hale is in a fever of guilt and uncertainty” (act one) is a example of a stage direction expressing Whale’s emotions of his participation in the events of Salem.

As Miller himself was persecuted for fostering anti-American beliefs, just as Proctor and many of he other characters in the Crucible had been, the context of the play has a great deal Of insight into the struggle Of self preservation in beliefs, ideals and morals but also the need to belong to something greater then the individual themselves. The human characteristic of the need to belong is one of the strongest key points throughout the play.

All characters whether they are ‘good’ or ‘evil’ truthful or deceitful or confirmation or non-compliance they are in search of a place to belong, whether it be to society, to their family or to themselves. Abigail and the other girls are the obvious characters that are in desperate deed of a sense of belonging to society. Their manipulative, deceitful motivation for condemning innocent people to the gallows is an immediate plea for attention and acceptance from the adults of the society. Due to the theocracy of the town of Salem, the girls are forced to ignore all sense of decency and honor in order to feel a sense of power and authority.

Abigail IS a girl of leadership qualities and is able to lead the girls in their acts of fraud, in the court, in their testimonies and their emotions of the events. The dislodgement of power in the town allows Abigail to persuade honorable but laded members of the hierarchy of Salem, “the crazy little children are jangling the keys of the kingdom”. Detonator, Paris, Hale and Cheaper who are then themselves thrown into a inner struggle on whether conforming to the girls in order to hold authority or to admit their mistakes and to have peace of mind, just as Hale does by the end of the play.

Detonator, Paris and Cheaper are characters that are used in the use of irony in the play. Act three set in the courtroom is a scene of high tension and angst and is a good example of irony, Proctor is in a desperate plea to free Elizabethan name along with all the there falsely accused, Abigail is at the height of her power, Hale is beginning to regret his support of the court and Detonator is determined to hold onto all authority, theocracy, belonging and truth that is left in the community.

This in itself is ironic as Detonator persecutes those who are honest and once had a sense of belonging in the community and pays respect to those who are deceitful and didn’t belong. Mary Warren, a servant girl of the Proctor’s residence is evidence of the human need to belong in act three. Proctor was able to convince her to testify against the girls in the court and to announce hat they are frauds and are deceiving the court.

But Mary gives into the pressure of peer group judgment when Abigail and the majority of the court turn against her, she claims that Proctor is the “devil’s man” and “l will not hang with you” and turns back to the girls for acceptance. Mary finds the persecution of having individual belief to be too great a sacrifice then conforming to lies and deception in order to belong. Proctor by this stage is at his peak of inner turmoil over his secret adultery with Abigail, he out cries “Where! Where! In a fit of rage, signing away his good name. The importance of name to Proctor is a key example of human need to belong. By Proctor signing his away in order to prove Abigail false shows how he is a good man and how he will not conform to society. Mary is a weak character therefore an easy target for Proctor, Detonator and Abigail to manipulate into conforming to their beliefs. Her need to belong becomes somewhat a blank canvas to them as they see her to turn to whatever ideals will allow her to belong.

Mays testimony of the girls being frauds is brought to a halt when Detonator asks Mary to feint in the court to prove that it was all just lies and Ames, but Marry inability to feint as she does not have the “sense of it” pushes pressure on Mary that changes the how she feels about belonging and shows that she is unable to look past the need to belong in order to have self preservation and dignity. The pressures of society are too great, this is in total contrast to Proctor, Elizabeth, Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey who refuse to give up their sense of righteousness and dignity in order to give in to lies and deception.

By the end of the play in act four, the characters have discovered their sense of belonging and their need to belong has either been ever shadowed by self dignity such as Proctor, Giles and Rebecca Nurse who all accept death over conforming and defying themselves their righteousness, goodness and honesty. Characters such as Hale and Paris have come to realization of the need to belong may not always be the right thing if it is at the cost of undignified human loss. 20th characters, Hale and Paris, are swept with guilt, Hale tries to persuade Proctor to confess and not step up to the gallows, while Paris realizes Detonator’s motives and that his own motives for supporting the court were greedy and a sense of shame washes over him. The high climatic ending of the play, where Proctor denies signing a false confession as he was able to find his decency and honor and Elizabeth is able to forgive him, is the final act of the human need to belong, but it shows how the people around an individual will change the need of that sense of belonging.

Proctor and Elizabeth realism to be content a sense of belonging to each other is all that is needed. Giles Corey and Rebecca Nurse, find that belonging to decency, honor and truth is stronger then belonging to life in a corrupt society, and Abigail realizes that gaining a sense of belonging can not e done through lies and deception. The film “Into the Wild” by Sean Penn, based on the true story of Christopher Mishandles, conveys the idea of an individual’s need to escape a sense of belonging to a society that they find repulsive and ‘corrupt’, but the everlasting need of human relationship and connectedness.

Christopher was born into a family of high wealth, and is witness of a dislodged, fractured relationship between his parents. This is thought to be one of the causes of Chrism’s dislike for society, as he sees it as a reflection of his family. The film shows how some individuals find a sense of belonging not with humans but tit environment around them, but that the human need to belong will always out weigh all other sense of belonging.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks and cut scenes, jumping from the past to the present with narration from his sister giving the audience a insight into the context Of Chrism’s decisions that led him to Alaska and the ‘Magic Bus’ and his eventual untimely death. Chris undertakes a two year journey to Alaska in hope of finding peace and happiness in the wilderness of the Alaskan mountains and to escape the need for him to conform to social normalizes that his parents expect him to partake in.

Chris just as John Proctor in The Crucible, finds an importance in name, a difference being that Chris finds the need to reject his given birth name and adopt a name he has created “Alexander Superstars”, a suggestion of rejection of his parents and the society he is running from and the adoption of an alter ego who believes in freedom and self expression. The name Alexander Superstars implies ‘super humanness’, strength of independence and great capabilities, values that Chris believes to be important.

While Chris tries to escape human relationships, he is knowingly making new ones that will have great significance on him near the end of his life, and the great significance he has on the lives of the people he meets along his journey to Alaska. The first characters that are introduced to Chris are Jan and Rainy, a couple who travel across America in a camper van. The relationship between Jan and Rainy is disconnected, and distant, both feel as if they cannot communicate with each other.

Chris reunites them, by showing each of them the needs of the other. Chris does this without realization of his actions and the positive implications it has on them. Chrism’s inability to allow himself to form any form of relationship with anyone, brings him to leave Jan and Rainy in the middle of the night, without a goodbye. This shows his want to escape society, as at the first sign of affection and emotion being shown Chris feels uncomfortable and a sense of unease and feels as if he has to move on.

Jan has a significant affect on Chris, as is learnt near the end of the film, when Chris realizes the pain he has caused his parents and the affect of his disappearance would have had on them and the sense of belonging to family he learns is important by the end of the film. The film demonstrates, the persecution and infringement of personal freedom and rights by authority, just as seen in The Crucible. Forever running into trouble with authoritative figures, Chris is continually being denied the freedom and escape he so purely desires.

Things such as paddling down the Colorado River is denied, with out proper authorization and documentation as well as a twelve year waiting list, not wearing socks while at work at the fast food restaurant and being beaten by the train guard for riding the freight train are examples of the authority that Chris runs into on his travels. Society o an individual can be enriching to the experience of belonging but for Chris is limits his ideal sense of belonging.

This is shown in the amount of issues that Chris experiences is partly due to the non-compliance attitudes he has towards society, and the fact that he believes that people should have freedom to enjoy the world without having to follow strict guidelines and Structure. This is a parallel to the expectations Of Chris that his parents held for him and the hatred of having to conform to other individual’s ideals and rules. The hypocrisy of his parent’s expectations of a perfect son and the reflect life is somewhat to blame for Chrism’s dispelling.

Chris and his sister grew up witnessing, violence, anger, deceit and pain from his parent’s marriage. Corrine’s voice oversee describe Chrism’s emotions as the fragility of crystal “the fragility of crystal is not a weakness but a fineness. My parents understood a fineness that had to be cared for or it may be shattered, but when it came to my brother, they seemed not to know or care that their course of secret action could bring the kind of devastation that could cut them”. The family difficulties experienced changed Chrism’s view of belonging; t showed that belonging to a family can bring both happiness and pain.

Ron Franz, a Korean veteran is a significant character in the film, his fatherly figure towards Chris, acts a kind of substitute to Chrism’s father’s absence in his life. Ron himself had suffered great personal tragedy, by losing his wife and child in a car accident with a drunk driver but he was able to move on and look past the tragedy to some form of positive in life. Ron teaches Chris that relationships with people are important and that he can spend his life full of bitterness and or that he can grow and learn from the pain that has been caused “you can choose to be a prisoner of bitterness or you can build a fulfilling life from pain”.

Chris realizes this in his last living days at the magic bus, and it helps him forgive his parents for the pain and deceit that contributed to his estrangement from society. The characters of Ron, Jan and Rainy show how the people surrounding an individual can be enrichment towards their sense of belonging and connectedness to society, even if they themselves are on the outskirts of society themselves. This corrupt society that Chris is continually trying to outrun is shown as a segregation, ventilating place, the audience gains a sense of how Chris feels about being the city of highly populated area.

By using different audio sounds such as, rushing traffic, trains and the general sounds of a bustling society, the effect of Chrism’s awkward, discomfort and displeasure is displayed along side with slow motion and freeze frames to add dramatic effect, this can been seen in the homeless shelter scene, where Chris views the homeless along the street and begins to feel as if this could be him in the future if he is to remain within society grasp.

These sounds are in contrast with the native sounds of the Alaskan Mountains, the wheat fields and the ocean where rushing rivers and birds are heard, the galloping of horses and the crashing of waves surround the audience’s sense of hearing that show Chrism’s total ease and pleasure from being separated from society and connectedness. The camera shots and angles used co-inside with these audio sounds are panoramic, split scenes that are slow and soothing just like Chrism’s sense of belonging.

These sounds slowly change throughout the movie as Chris learns the true depth in belonging and human connection. As Chrism’s health deteriorates from lack of food and exposure to the elements he learns the value of belonging to a society and that humans are not capable of living in primitive ways in exposed conditions. He learns that being connected to his family and other people will bring happiness that no other form of belonging such as belonging to the environment and to complete isolation will bring.

The time spent in the Magic Bus for Chris is a time of personal reflection and deliberation as well as a time to learn to forgive and feel a sense of connection to the people surrounding his life. At the end of the film we witness Chris reject his adopted name of Alexander Superstars and accept his real name. A sign of complete reformation of everything he believed in and that of what he learnt and now believes in. In both the play The Crucible’ and the film ‘Into the Wild’, the idea of the world and the people around an individual being a limiting or enriching experience to the individuals sense of belonging had been conveyed.

This was expressed, through all characters, whether they demonstrated the positive or negative aspects of the concept such as Proctor and Chris, two individualists ho fight conformity in order to keep their sense of identity and to express their needs to belong to their own ideals, or characters such as Abigail, Detonator and Chrism’s parents who will conform in order to gain a sense of belonging to what they believed to be the social norms and theocracies that may not be morally correct.

The enriching and limiting experiences described in both texts both come to the resolution of the human need to belong and the facts of life that will change the perspective of an individuals sense of belong such as family, friendship, theocracies, societies and their natural surroundings.

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