When the topic of a Puritanical society is brought up, most people think of arigorous, conservative, highly devout society. While this may have usually beenthe case, this was not always so. The Puritan society was also known not to actout of brotherly, “Christian love”, but to cruelly lash out on thosewho sinned or were deemed unfit for society. Two works of literature thatdisplay both aspects of this society very accurately are The Scarlet Letter, byNathaniel Hawthorne, and The Crucible, by Arthur Miller.
The Scarlet Letterdisplays a society that treats two people very differently who commit the sin ofadultery together. The woman, Hester Prynne, admits her sin, is forced to alwayswear a scarlet letter “A” on her bosom, and is ostracized fromsociety. The man, Reverend Dimmesdale, who hides his sin from the world, isalmost worshipped by the townspeople, but is filled with the dishonor of hisaction. Hawthorne illustrates how insensitive a Puritan society can be to thosewho admit their sinful actions.
The Crucible is a play that reveals the story ofthe famous witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts. In the story, AbigailWilliams, the orphaned niece of the towns minister, Reverend Parris, is themain person who accuses people of sending their spirits on her and the othergirls. What starts as children dancing in the woods leads to the accusation andexecution of many innocent people for witchcraft. The two works of literature,The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter have very similar qualities, includingsetting, difference, and general aspects of the characters, while there are alsospecific parallels between characters, such as Abigail and Hester, and Parrisand Dimmesdale. The settings in both The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible aresimilar in many ways. The Scarlet Letter takes place around the 1640s, as TheCrucible occurs in 1692. The time period is very important in both pieces,because it is a time of religious intolerance and a conservative attitudepervades in New England, where both works of literature take place.
This Puritansetting is also very important in both works of literature. The reason behindthe townspeople persecuting sinners is because of the Puritan beliefs of thetime period. This is the driving force between the actions of the characters.The setting of a religiously intolerant village is also the main reason behindthe conflict that lies in each plot. The conflicts in both works of literatureare also similar. The same thing, the excessively devout town in which thesetting takes place, causes them both.
The conflict in The Scarlet Letter thatoccurs between Dimmesdale, Hester, and Chillingworth; is caused by the townsintolerance for sinners. Hesters life is spent in complete loneliness becauseof the way the town treats her. Chillingworth, Hesters past husband, is likemost of the townspeople, because he feels the need to punish and inflict pain onsinners, especially those who have personally harmed him.
Chillingworth tries togain revenge on Dimmesdale, the man who commits adultery with his wife. The townsdesire to seek out and personally condemn sinners is also the source of conflictin The Crucible. In The Crucible, the townspeople hunt out the witches in thecommunity as an attempt to rid the town of evil. In both, the conflict is causedby the towns self appointed right to rancorously persecute and punish anyonewho is found sinning. The conflict is also similar because both towns aregenerally the same. They are both located in the same general area of America,which causes the people to have similar beliefs and traditions.
This includesthe townspeople, and the general aspects of the characters. The general aspectsof characters are also similar in both The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible. Bothhave a main antagonist, who wishes to punish sinners. In The Scarlet Letter,this person is Roger Chillingworth, who wants to gain revenge on Dimmesdale, andin The Crucible, the antagonist is Abigail Williams, the girl who mainly accusesthe people of being witches.
In addition, both works of literature includeignorant townspeople who contribute to the main conflict. In The Scarlet Letter,these people are the ones who loathe Hester, but love Reverend Dimmesdale. Thepeople in Reverend Parris home while his daughter is sick, and the people incourt in The Crucible are similar to the townspeople in The Scarlet Letter. Partof this is due to the Puritan setting. This affects the way the people think,and how they view sinners. One other similarity between the characters are thesimilar town figures in each.
In The Scarlet Letter, there is a minister,Dimmesdale, a political figure, Billingham, and one family that the plot focuseson, which is Hester and Pearl, who go through many problems because of Hesterssin. The Crucible has a similar Reverend, Parris, political figure, and it alsofocuses on one main family, the Proctors who go through many problems due to thewitch hunt. Other than the general similarities between characters, there arealso many specific parallels. One specific parallel between characters is thatof Reverend Parris and Dimmesdale. One obvious similarity is that they are bothministers in the towns they live in. However, more parishioners like Dimmesdalein The Scarlet Letter than Parris in The Crucible.
Yet, both ministers areconcerned with their image. In The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale hides his sin toprevent punishment, but this was not the only reason. He also does not confessbecause he still wants the Puritans to idolize and venerate him, which they doto an extreme.
Parris is also very much like Dimmesdale in The Crucible, becausehe also cares greatly about public image. He does not want people to think hisdaughter actually signs the Black Mans book, and wants to hide her mysteriousillness from the parishioners. In addition, he fears John Proctor, becauseProctor does not like him.
Parris feels that anyone that does not like him willbecome a threat to his authority as the minister. That is one reason he pressesthe execution of John Proctor. Another reason he presses the executions is thathe cannot bear the thought of witches in his parish. If there were witches, thiswould prove he is not performing his job, as he should. Besides the parallel ofministers, there are also other parallels between characters in these two works.
Another parallel is between Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter and AbigailWilliams in The Crucible. While Hester is considered the protagonist, Abigail isconsidered the antagonist. Both are startlingly similar in many ways. For onething, both go through the same types of problems, because they are both verymuch alone in their lives.
Hester is shunned by society and lives on theoutskirts of town. Abigail is an orphan, and considering she is never reallypart of a family, she probably has a feeling of loneliness for all of her life.Another similarity between the two is that they are both adulteresses. Hester isa married woman who is unfaithful by sleeping with another man, Dimmesdale.Abigail is not married, but also commits adultery by sleeping with a marriedman, John Proctor. Both sins are essential to the plot of both works ofliterature. However, Hester pays the price of this sin, while Abigail does not.
The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible are written in two different time periods,but are still similar in many ways. Both demonstrate the true aspects of aPuritan society very accurately. Because of this accuracy, naturally they aresimilar and have many parallels. Both have similar conflicts, settings, andcharacters. The fact that they have so many parallels is probably the reason whyboth are considered outstanding works of literature. They both contain the sameelement of truth and accuracy of the Puritan society and will most likelysurvive as great works of literature for many times to come.
BibliographyHawthorne, Nathaniel “The Scarlet Letter” New York: Bantam Books,1986 Miller, Arthur. “The Crusible” New York: Bantam Books, 1963English Essays