The Hunger for Power and an Impact on a Person’s Life in the Crucible
Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power (William Gaddis). Puritanism was a powerful religious, social, and political order in New England colonial life. In a Puritan society, humans wanted to reform the Christian church and believed that the devil had servants that worked for him on Earth. Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, explains the persecution of persons falsely accused of being witches in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. The play portrays power and how that power shifts among the characters. It shows which characters have power and how power can overtake people causing them to abuse it for material gain, self preservation, or revenge. Two minor characters, Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam, aquire power; one desperate to keep it and one hungers for more. Power and authority are the epitome of this Patriarchal Society where men control all: wives, children, servants, courts, and the church. Reverend Samuel Parris holds an important position of authority and places himself even higher than others in the community. He is a weak man, obsessed with power and control, and throughout the play is only concerned with his reputation and money. When challenged, especially by John Proctor, Parris resents this opposition and reminds others that Proctor does not attend church on a regular basis; therefore, his opinion does not matter about reforms to the church. Proctor, a well-respected man in the community, is quick to point out that he dislikes Parris’ sermons because [he] hardly even mention[s] God any more (Miller 27).
Parris is supposed to be a man of the Lord and live a simple life, but his materialistic demands on the community continue throughout the play. Using his religious position and assuming that his contract provides [him] be supplied with all [his] firewood(Miller 27), Parris is met with constant opposition and wonders why he cannot offer one proposition but there be a howling riot of arguement (Miller 28). Proctor reminds Parris that his salary is sixty-six pounds, including the six for firewood. When Parris expresses the need for new, gold candlesticks, Proctor once again openly disagrees and is adamant that he will not attend church in a place where he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks until he had them(Miller 62). Parris’ fear of being put out like the cat (Miller 28) relieving him of his position in Salem, push him to demand the deed to his current residence. Never before in Salem had such a demand been made by a minister, only to be denied. Free firewood, gold candlesticks, and the deed to the house represent Parris’ greed for material items and his thrist for power over anyone who challenges his authority. Creating chaos throughout the town, Thomas Putnam uses the witch trials to accuse others in order to buy their land. Putnam is a selfish, greedy man who uses his wealth to get what he wants, even if he must use his daughter.
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Hungry for power, Putnam forced his daughter, Ruth, to accuse No strong personal relationship can be found that connects Reverend Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam; however, similarites in their hunger for power is clear. Besides family, Putnam is one of the first people to call upon the Parris’s house after Betty falls ill. It seems as if Putnam is there to convince Parris that witchcraft is to blame for both Betty’s and his daughter, Ruth’s, sudden illness. Putnam encourages Parris to speak with the townspeople blaming witches for his daughter’s sickness. At first, it seems that Putnam wants Parris to denounce the devil and have the village bless him for it, but realistically it appears that Putnam is only looking out for himself. Putnam is angry with the people of Salem for not selecting his brother-in-law as the town minister, so he is going to use Parris’ position of authority to seek revenge on the people in the community he feels are his enemies. Using unyielding pressure, Putnam is able to convince Parris to commit to the idea of supernatural forces, or witchery, that are the root of Betty’s sickness. Once admitted by Reverned Parris, the stage for what becomes Salem’s witch hunt is set and Putnam’ desire for revenge and profit fall into place. Some of the primary accusations come from Putnam and are supported by Parris. These two men, among others, use their power to accuse innocent people of illegal acts of witchcraft, which results in nearly forty deaths by the time the trials are over. Throughout history, the hunger for power has the potential to make an impact on a person’s life be it positive or negative. Parris and Putnam used their power as a tool, and when used the wrong way, it did a lot of harm to many people in the town of Salem. With great power comes great responsibility(Voltaire); however, few are responsible enough to remain fair. These two men and their search for power did not gain the respect and social status they feel they deserve and ultimately ended up the same way they began the play.