Various Human Issues and Sins in Three Literary Works
Humanity has many different sides to it. Some people can say they have never seen the darker side of humanity, others can not say such. In the various works, The Crucible, a drama by Arthur Miller, Catcher in the Rye, a novel by J.D. Salinger, and The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls, human behavior is shown in it’s not quite so good light. These works show various human issues and various of the seven deadly sins.
For instance, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, displays three of the seven deadly sins. In fact, Thomas Putnam shows envy toward Francis and Rebecca Nurse because of their land ownership. The Nurses hold quite a bit of power, having prevented Putnam’s wife’s brother-in-law from becoming the minister of Salem. Miller explains that “Another suggestion to explain the systematic campaign against Rebecca, and inferentially against Francis, is the land war he fought with his neighbors, one of whom was a Putnam”(Miller.I.i.26). In the time of the play, those accused of witchcraft could not own land. As such, their land could be bought at an auction, allowing one such as Thomas Putnam who tends to accuse others of witchcraft, to buy their land. Furthermore, Reverend Samuel Parris displays the sin of greed. Parris believes himself to be worthy of more material possessions and payment. Parris, arguing about firewood, arrogantly argues, “The salary is sixty-six pound, Mr. Proctor!
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I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College”(MIller.I.i.29). Parris has also, in the past, demanded the pewter candlesticks be replaced with gold ones. In the same conversation, Parris also points out he dislikes “this poverty” as he left a thriving business in Barbados to serve the Lord. Another sinner is Judge Danforth, a sinner of pride. He believes that, because he has been a judge for many years, he cannot be fooled. After refusing to pardon any of the accused meant to hang that morning, Danforth declares for those around to hear, “Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak God’s law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering” (Miller.IV.i.129). He refuses to acknowledge, even with solid proof, that the girls continue to lie to him, which makes him a fool. In short, The Crucible clearly shows three of the seven deadly sins: envy, greed and pride.
As with The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, the characters in J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, show signs of human behavior issues. As such, Holden Caulfield, a teeenager in the 1950s, shows frustration at school, Pencey Prep, He stands at the top of Thomsen Hill, not down at the football game, “because I’d just got back from New York with the fencing team”(Salinger 3). He manages the fencing team and they return from a meet. He left the fencing equipment on the subway, as he tried to make sure that they got off at the right stop. He holds the blame as no one else seems to want to stand up for him. He stands at the top of a hill with no one around, on his way to talk with a teacher. He plans on saying goodbye to this specific teacher, and no one else. Also, Holden shows frustration with his roommate, Stradlater, when he refuses to tell Holden what he and Jane Gallagher, an old neighbor and friend, did on their date. Holden, really mad, “tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddam throat open”(Salinger 43). Holden tries to punch Stradlater simply because Stradlater refuses to tell him about the date with Jane, his frustration came out in a punch. He does not like the fact that Stradlater is refusing to tell him what he did with Jane. In fact, Holden’s younger sister, Phoebe became frustrated with Holden when she found out that he left school early, after being kicked out for failing most of his classes. Holden and Phoebe sat in their brother’s, D.B., bedroom talking, ”You did get kicked out! You did!”(Salinger 165). She buries her head under the pillow, claiming that their dad will kill Holden. She feels disappointment toward Holden because he is kicked out of yet another school. In conclusion, The Catcher in the Rye shows quite clearly the human behavior issues of isolation and frustration.
As with the previous two works, The Glass Castle shows various of the seven deadly sins. Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, is about her childhood, and being raised by her parents. For example, Jeannette was three, making herself hot dogs on the stove. She burned herself badly. Later, she was making hot dogs for herself again, “I was hungry, Mom was at work on a painting and no one else was there to fix them for me”(Walls 15). Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, shows the sin of sloth by doing the easier thing and continuing to paint rather than make food for her daughter. Another example is Jeannette’s father, Rex. He is an alcoholic when they have enough money to buy alcohol. Rex is usually a nice man, “But when Dad pulled out a bottle of what Mom called “the hard stuff,” she got kind of frantic, because after working on the bottle for a while, Dad turned into an angry-eyed stranger who threw around furniture and threatened to beat up Mom or anyone else who got in his way”(Walls 23). Rex shows the sin of gluttony with his drinking problem.
He shows no care for the children or his wife as the only thing he seems to think about is the next bottle of alcohol and where it will come from. Jeannette had tried to get him to stop drinking as a birthday present to her, but he fell back on his vice when something didn’t go his way. Finally, Rose Mary hides food from her children, showing the sin of greed. Jeannette and her siblings are sitting in a cold house, trying to forget about their hunger, when they see Rose Mary ducking over the blankets she has wrapped around her. When Brian, Jeannette’s older brother, ripped the covers off “Lying on the mattress next to Mom was one of those huge family-sized Hershey chocolate bars, the shiny silver wrapper pulled back and torn away. She’d already eaten half of it”(Walls 174). Rose Mary then proceeded to claim she is a sugar addict just as Rex is an alcoholic, with a claim that they should forgive her as they do with Rex. In The Glass Castle Rose Mary and Rex Walls show the sins greed, gluttony, and sloth throughout the novel.
Various human issues and sins are displayed in all of the aforementioned written works. These works show that while some people can remain unknowing of the darker side of humanity, others will always see that side. Everyone has seen some part of the darker side, but few live there, fewer still were raised there.
- Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Penguin Books, 2016.
- Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2018.
- Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle. First Scribner trade, 2006.