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Introduction to the Puritans and The Crucible


Innocent prank caused mass hysteria during time of unrest ... Puritans brought pre-existing ideas about women & magic to colonies ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to the Puritans and The Crucible

Introduction to the Puritans and The Crucible
Beach, Olson, Smith
It is the expectation of this course that you
will actively pursue understanding of the
historic and philosophical context into which
literature is born. Therefore, you will
comprehend how literature reflects our growing
nation at each pulse point and influences
American attitudes even today. Authors take
license with history for the sake of storytelling
and presenting the theme on their personal
agenda. You will react to the content of the
theme as well as the way the author tells his/her
story. So, when you sense boredom or feel
impatient with the writing, focus your attention
on the message and the context of the tale.
We begin with a play, set in colonial
America. Arthur Millers drama The Crucible has
its feet in two eras of time, Puritanical New
England Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and Cold War
Washington of the 1950s. Miller presents
Americas deepest past in order to make a modern
point. He saw that, as the saying goes, Those
who do not learn from history are doomed to
repeat it. Learning about the historical
setting of the play will make Millers
contemporary application a deeper experience for
you. It will allow you to reflect on our own
times and address current, similar issues with
more compassion and responsibility.
Who were the Puritans?
  • Definition Refers to the movement for reform,
    which occurred within the Church of England
    between the time of Elizabeth and Charles II.
  • The Puritans wanted to rid the Church of any
    Catholic residue and build upon the ideas of John
    Calvin. When Elizabeth died and Charles II
    dissolved parliament, and any connection between
    church and state, he demanded that anyone be
    killed who did not support the new Anglican
    Church. Hence, religious persecution began for
    the Puritans.
  • Left for the new world in 1620 and established
    the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Puritans, Pilgrims, Planters
  • Puritans Varied group of religious reformers
    wanting change within the church
  • Pilgrims Version of Puritans, but they were
    separatistswanted separation from the Church of
    England (e.g. Quakers)
  • Planters Cavaliers who still wanted to be part
    of Englandcontinued to dress and act in English

The Puritan community was a theocracy, a
government which blends church and state. The
churchs officials were the governments
officials. Thus, church and state were not
The Puritans sought to purify the church. That
is, by stripping off the ceremony, pageantry and
human interpretation from the corrupt church,
the Puritans thus returned focus to the
relationship between God and Mankind. In many
ways, it was an attempt to create a utopian
Theological Beliefs Espoused by the Puritans
These beliefs originated in Calvinism.
  • Total depravity Humankind is totally sinful
    through the fall of Adam and utterly unable to
    work out their own redemption.
  • Unconditional election (Predestination) God is
    under no obligation to save anyone. He saves or
    elects those who he wills with no reference to
    good works.
  • Limited atonement Christ died only for the
  • Irresistible grace Gods free grace is neither
    earned nor refused. Anyone who has it, has it.
  • Perseverance of saints Those whom God has chosen
    have thenceforth full power to do the will of God
    and the ability to live uprightly to the end.

The Puritan Dilemma
  • Puritanism required
  • That a man devote his life to seeking salvation
    but told him
  • he was helpless to do anything evil.
  • That he rest his whole hope in Christ but taught
    him that Christ would utterly reject him unless
    before he was born, God had foreordained his
  • That man refrain from sin but told him he would
    sin anyhow.
  • That he reform the world in the image of Gods
    holy kingdom but taught him that the evil of the
    world was incurable and inevitable.
  • That he work to the best of his ability at what
    ever task was set before him and partake of the
    good things that God had filled the world with
    but told him he must enjoy his work and his
    pleasures only, as if it were, absentmindedly,
    with attention fixed on God.
  • Edmund S. Morgan, Historian

Myths about the Puritans
  • Myth 1 The Puritans forbid all sorts of sins
    (sex, alcohol, theater)
  • In truth The Puritans believed in loving
    relationships, moderation, and avoidance of
    potentially sinful encounters. In general, they
    saw life as for work, rather than pleasure.
    However, they were not morose. They wore colored
    clothes, had games and celebrations.

Myth 2 The Puritan government denied free speech
and religious freedom In truth While the
Puritans believed that transgressions deserved
immediate punishment, they allowed for discussion
of ideas. Although women did not vote, they
spoke through their husbands. Their theocracy
was not imposed on those outside the community.
For them, Faith was their rock.
Myth 3 Puritans were dogmatic and
anti-intellectual. In truth They taught all
their children to read, started Harvard College,
read philosophers, poets and dramatists of
antiquity. They also were not threatened by
scientific advances, experiment and logic.
Puritans valued intellect. They believed in
achievement. Myth 4 Puritans burned
witches and others at the stake. In truth
Although they executed individuals (25 in total),
none were burned. One was tortured to death,
five died in prison, and nineteen were hanged.
They believed in a well-ordered society, a sort
of religious athlete.
Myth 5 Puritans were self-righteous
hypocrites. In truth While some were, others
were genuinely virtuous with the majority
somewhere in the middle. There is no doubt,
however, that the extremes could influence those
in the middle, at least for a time.
Salem Town vs. Salem Village
  • Salem Politics
  • Economic Unrest caused many conflicts
  • Salem Town Modern stylish wealthy
  • Salem Village Fortunes diminished due to
    contesting of wills and division of land
    boundaries farmers
  • 1689 Parris becomes reverend
  • 1691 Villagers vow to push Parris from town and
    stop contributing to his salary

The Salem Witch Trials, 1692
  • Innocent prank caused mass hysteria during time
    of unrest
  • Hysteria implies Puritans deep belief in
  • Puritans cannot handle anything threatening the
    quest for perfection/religious purity (magic is
    out of place)
  • Puritans brought pre-existing ideas about women
    magic to colonies
  • Women evil sexual--targets for Devil

Signs of Puritan Decay
  • Visible decay of godliness
  • Manifestations of pride,especially among the rich
  • Violations of the Sabbath
  • Rise in contentious lawsuits
  • Sins of sex and alcohol on the rise
  • Decay in business morality laborers underpaid,
    lying, etc
  • Lack of desire to reform

The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller which
explores the Salem Witch Trials.
A Crucible is a severe test.
It does not maintain authentic situations from
the historical events. However, it does
demonstrate how hysteria and blind faith can
corrupt individuals, even those with good
The play is social commentary made by Miller in
response to the McCarthy Un-American, witch hunt
trials of the 1950s.
"The reason why we find ourselves in a position
of impotency is not because the enemy has sent
men to invade our shores, but rather because of
the traitorous actions of those who have had all
the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth
has had to offer - the finest homes, the finest
college educations, and the finest jobs in
Government we can give."