The Crucible is a novel that demonstrates the human abuse of power and ability to manipulate weakness in others to achieve our own goals, using its crop of deceptive and cunning antagonists. A well-known actor who held a role in a theatre representation of the Crucible, Javier Bardem was once quoted as saying that he could "respect people's faith, but [he could] not respect their manipulation of that faith to create fear and control" (Bardem). This is precisely what Miller is demonstrating in his text, playing on the faith of the Puritans in Salem, of God and of witches.
This allows characters like Danforth to keep a strong hold of their political power, assuring they remain there, while Parris and Putnam abuse their power to save face before the public, and carrying out her dangerously selfish goals, Abigail twists that faith and fear to gain power. Thus, because of their ability to manipulate themselves to safety, no one questions their actions, save John Proctor, who angrily asks "why do [they] never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers?
" (Miller 73) With this statement, it is clear the Crucible studies the abuse of power and manipulation very closely. Danforth demonstrates an abuse of power, dominating the court by their fear of being accused of witchcraft, or of being condemned for contempt of the court. He bullies them into confessing, threatening them with death or jailing if they don't. When faced with an honest man, Giles Corey, who won't give up a name as to not jail his source, Danforth attempts to scare it out of him, menacing him by saying he "[has] no choice but to arrest [him] for contempt of this court," (90) when the court's not even in session.
When questioning Mary Warren, again Danforth becomes a bully, berating her with question after question, knowing she is weak, and it soon causes her to break, eventually turning her against John Proctor. Danforth pressures her by saying "[she is] either lying now, or [she was] lying in the court, and in either case [she has] committees perjury and [she] will go to jail for it," (94). Finally, Danforth attempts this manipulation on Proctor, but he will not have it. He refuses to be used as a pawn in Danforth's mass court bullying, refusing to add to the town's hysteria.
He vows to Danforth that he "will not use [him]! It is no part of salvation that [he] should use [him]" (132). Still, Danforth tries, threatening him with hanging if he doesn't write his confession, because he plans to post it on the church door, "for the good of the village" (128). In doing so, he could cause more hysteria among the people to later manipulate in court. This is similar to the court's abuse of power, years later, during the McCarthy Hearings in the 1950s.
Joseph McCarthy abused his status in court to gain more power and condemn enemies and those who spoke ill of him. He, like Danforth, ran these proceedings by dominating their respective audiences with the fear of being condemned for either witchcraft or communism, and contempt of court in both. They were presenting their "victims", who were promised salvation and safety if they answered favorably, with only two choices, "of either being in contempt of [the court] and going to jail or forcing [them] to really crawl through the mud to be an informer," (Parks 1).
Danforth remains at the top of the food chain in court no matter what, manipulating Salem's fearful into confessing, be it truth or not, to save themselves, seeing the world as only black and white, with Salem being "with [the] court or [they] must be counted against it, there be no road between," (Miller 87). He carries out this abuse for juridical gain, while other adults in Salem, such as Parris or Putnam, twist and manipulate power for personal gain.
Parris and Putnam are examples of well-respected adults in positions of higher political power as the Minister and a wealthy man, respectively, who irresponsibly abuse the power of that status. On one end of the scale, you have Parris, using his niece's "experience" to blame others in the hopes of saving his reputation and gain standing as a better minister. On the other end, a rich man seeking more power over the lands by supporting his daughter's accusations against those owning lands he could buy.
Both men are as foul as the witches Salem fears, and prey upon the aforementioned fear to shove their hands further into the cooked jar of power, never being questions by higher authority or suspected because of money and political standing. Giles Corey is the first to call Putnam on this manipulation publicly, by announcing he knows a man who heard Putnam say "the day his daughter cried out on Jacobs, [that] she'd given him a fair gift of land," (89).
But in the end no one dares believe him, or at least look into Giles' accusation, because of Putnam's strong reputation of political power and good money. This is also the reason his subtle machinations-including subtly manipulating Parris into conclusions he wants to hear-are often overlooked. Parris, on the other hand, has no political power to abuse. Instead, he manipulates the court, skillfully using his title as minister to have his way, saving his reputation that would have been tainted by the discovery of his daughter and niece dancing in the forest.
He also aids Abigail in abusing the hysteria and fear of Salem to rid himself of his enemies, particularly Proctor, who "[has] no love for Parris, it is no secret," (84). The behavior of these two men is comparable to that of Antoine Tassy, Lord of Kamouraska in Anne Hi?? bert's French novel, Kamouraska. Tassy is able to physically assault his wife, Elisabeth D'Aulnii?? res, and twist the servants around him to get his way, never being persecuted for it because, let's face it, trying to condemn a man of high political power is quite a hopeless mission.
Thus, Miller's view that people in positions of power constantly abuse it is represented in his play. Samuel Parris takes advantage of his status as minister in the court, supporting Abigail's lies, to manipulate power and protect his reputation. Thomas Putnam abuses the town's witch craze for land. Both men escape prosecution for their actions because of their power in Salem. However, their motives for mistreating their power and manipulating their fear of Salem's people are far less personal and vindictive than those of Abigail Williams.