The story relates to the McCarthy trials. During the 1950's Senator Joseph McCarthy accused many American leaders of being communists. This lead to many accusations that people were communists. Some people believed him because they had fear of communism. McCarthy was, in effect, conducting "witch hunts". The Red Scare was a witch hunt where the US government was searching for "dangerous communists. " Accusations came from left and right, much the same as the characters did for "real witches" in The Crucible.
This meant that people were forced to either confess to the crime of witchery or shove the blame towards a different person. As an effect of this bias, the accused were never discharged, but were given the opportunity to confess to the crime of witchcraft to lessen their sentence. With the red scare, the accused were given a chance to give up names of other suspected communists to lessen their sentence as well. In both situations, there were people who confessed even though they had no relation to the crime at all.
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The majority, however, valued their morals and refused to give into political pressure by lying. This is shown as abuse of power. The puritans were a group of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th century. The entire plot of the novel is moulded by the repressive Puritan society. Like many puritan women, Elizabeth Proctor is dutiful and loves her husband dearly. Yet, Elizabeth is hurt by the fact that her husband was having an affair with their “strikingly beautiful” young servant (Abigail).
She finds it hard to show emotion and this affects her relationship with John Proctor vastly. In Act One we can see that there is ‘heat’ and ‘passion’ between John and Elizabeth. When Abigail says, ‘I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near! ’ She's saying that John still lusts after her, breaking into a sweat when he sees her. She's holding the affair over his head and reminding him how he has sinned would like to sin again. We can see that Abigail has real feelings for John and they have a sexual attraction between them.
With Abigail being a 17 year old puritan girl and John being a married man, this is clearly outrageous and shows that he was prepared to break his rules. Proctor convinced himself he was a sinful man that had done wrong, and to have respect for himself once again, he must break off all ties with Abigail. When Abigail mentioned to Proctor the relationship she and he once had, he said to her, "No, no, Abby. That's done with," and, "Abby, you'll put it out of mind. I'll not be comin' for you more.
Even when Abigail tried to persuade Proctor to admit his love for her, he still denied it and claimed he had no love for her any longer. In all of Abigail's persuasion to try to get him to admit his love for her, Proctor replied, "Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I'll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby. " Proctor saying to Abigail that they never touched was his way of trying to get through to her that the relationship between the both of them had to end here.
In Proctor's mind, saying that to Abigail was a finalization of their affair and gave him the closure that he needed to truly forget what he and Abigail had between them. The affair between Proctor and Abigail also had made his love for Elizabeth grow stronger. The guilt of the affair made him realize how Elizabeth was a good woman and deserved more than a cheating husband, and he refused to allow Abigail to speak wickedly about her.
Abigail said bitterly to Proctor, "Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be -," in which he interrupted angrily with, "You'll speak nothin' of Elizabeth! Abigail, realising the respect he now had for Elizabeth as to not let her speak of Elizabeth in such a manner, then tried to convince Proctor otherwise, saying, "She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, snivelling woman... " Elizabeth is shown as a ‘cold’ woman whereas Abigail and Proctor have ‘heat’ – ‘no wintry man’. The anger he felt at this time was not only towards Abigail, but also towards himself. He felt he had sinned greatly and did not provide Elizabeth, a mother of three children, with the respect and loyalty that one would expect out of a husband.
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