Does power corrupt In Arthur Miller s The Crucible, Miller takes his readers on a journey back to 1692 to revisit the Salem witchcraft trials. He cleverly portrays a small Puritan town and the disappearance of their commitment to each other and the truth. One of the main characters in Miller s play is Abigail Williams, who is a seventeen year old orphan with an endless capacity for dissembling. (p. 8) She, along with an evil land owner, Thomas Putnam, and a distinguished judge, Danforth, is able to corrupt the town to get what they want.
Through their manipulating tactics of deceiving the town and making them believe that evil has taken over, Danforth, Putnam, and Abigail Williams are able to destroy the morals and values the town once had to get what they want. Judge Danforth is the first of the three individuals that use power to corrupt. He is a deputy governor and a grave man in his sixties with an exact loyalty to his position and cause (p. 85). Danforth sees his position as judge as an important one, and in the case of witchcraft in Salem, his main objective is to rid the town of all evil (p. 140).
However, he misuses his power to punish the innocent in order to please the town s majority. An example of how Danforth uses his power to achieve his goal occurs towards the end of the story. He makes an example out of John Proctor, and makes him confess to being involved with witchcraft. John Proctor was a very important player in Danforth s plan because he is so well known throughout the town.
If Danforth could use his power as a judge to make Proctor confess, then the presence of witchcraft and evil in the town would soon disappear and order would be restored. Thomas Putnam, a wealthy landowner, is another character that uses power to corrupt the town to benefit himself. He is very well known throughout the town not only as a well to do landowner (p. 13), but also as a man with many grievances, at least one of whic appears justified (p. 14). Throughout the story, Putnam reappears as a key player in the fight against witchcraft.
He, along with Reverend Paris, represents the group of people in the town who believe that evil does exist in Salem and anyone even remotely suspected of being involved must be hanged immediately. An instance where Putnam uses his power maliciously towards the town occurs during the trial. Giles Corey accuses him of using his status to kill his neighbors for their land (p. 84)! Corey claims that Putnam is accusing others of witchcraft just so that he can take over their property. Although there is no concrete evidence that proves that Putnam did try witchcraft on some people in the town to get their land, he is known as a person of evil character and a greedy man who does use power to corrupt. The last character who repeatedly uses power to destroy the town and help herself is Abigail Williams.
Throughout the novel, Abigail is described as a lonely, yet driven character with an undying need for control. She yearns to rule over the town and manipulate her love-interest John Proctor. In the story, Abigail is the culprit behind all the events of evil that have suddenly occurred in Salem. Abigail s need for control is what possesses her to commit the crimes she commits, and she uses witchcraft as a catalyst to destroy the town and eventually herself. One of the many events where Abigail uses her power to corrupt occurs in the courtroom during the trial.
Marry Warren and John Proctor go to try to prove that Abigail and the other girls are lying about being involved in witchcraft. To protect herself, from being condemned of witchcraft, Abigail bursts out and claims that Marry is possessed by the Devil and that she is using her power over Abigail and the rest of the girls. She cries, Mary! Don t come down (p. 115), in an attempt to convince the judge that Mary is controlling them with the work of the devil in the form of an imaginary bird. By doing this, Abigail manages to make Marry s and John Proctor s testimony meaningless. Another instance where Abigail uses her power to destroy people in the town occurs when she causes Elizabeth Proctor to be taken away.
Before the trial Abigail is seen with a needle stuck in her stomach and later a needle that was planted in a doll that was given to Elizabeth Proctor was found. The town concludes that Elizabeth was involved in witchcraft because of the so-called voodoo doll. Because of Abigail, Elizabeth Proctor and others were taken away and sentenced to be hanged because of witchcraft. Miller s The Crucible is an example of how corrupt a society can become when power falls into the wrong hands. Abigail Williams, Putnam, and Judge Danforth are examples of how people use power to their advantage. Because of their ill-will Salem is subjected to the evils of corruption disguised in the form of witchcraft.
The once good and kind town leaders are accused of being involved in the Devils work, and they, along with their wives, are ridiculed and eventually hanged. Mainly used for financial and emotional gain, power is what causes Salem, Massachusetts to fall into a pool of lies and manipulation.