The Crucible: Belonging & Exclusion (the “other”) Essay, Research Paper
What is it to belong to a group? Is it really that simple when someone says, “Either you’re with us or you’re not”? Yes, it is that simple. Belonging and exclusion in any situation are two sides of the same coin – you can’t have one without the other. In any organization or group, people are bound together by a community of interest, purpose or function and if you do not believe in these same things, then you are not a part of that group. In an organization or group, you have to ask yourself, “What is it to be a part of this particular group, what does it take to belong?” It takes following the rules of the group, agreeing with their purpose, obeying their authorities and the ability to go the length for their cause. In “The Crucible”, if they did not abide as part of the group, the Christian Church, then the consequences were fatal. The Crucible told of what is was to be a scapegoat in their society and what it took to defend themselves from becoming that scapegoat.
To remind people in an organization why they belong takes continued focus on a common goal or common belief. By having one main function, a group is generally more effective than if everyone has different ideas and outlooks on specific topics. However, to keep everyone on the same page, the members of a group need to accurately know where they stand in reference to their goal. One way to do this is through social facilitation. This is the concern of self image through the presence of other people. It’s a concept that allows members to know the acceptable opinions of the group. Someone who agrees to the ideas set out from the organization. Group polarization is the concept of changing personal opinions to extremities after a group discussion. This concept eliminates members who aren’t sure what they think of the group’s purpose. They decide that either they agree completely or they disagree completely. Either way it means they decide if they are in or out after the group discussion. A common goal is one way to distinguish and separate the devoted members from the questionable individuals in a group.
High cohesiveness is an effective tool in the success and effectiveness of an organization. However, in order for success and effectiveness, the group must ensure that everyone is willing to follow the guidelines implicitly. Traditionally, rules are set out for the members to follow. Generally, explicit rules are made in order for everyone to obviously and without question understand what is expected of them. Ideally, a clear list of what you can and cannot do and what is acceptable and unacceptable in their organization should exist. Unfortunately these requirements are not all written down – implicit standards are always hiding in a group, whether they are talked of or not is up to the group. We usually call these implicit rules actual “norms” which are there to ensure that only the “proper” people are involved in the group. Implicit details often provide secret exclusion for members that don’t “belong”. Some details are implicitly implied only because by exploiting these undercover rules, the image of the group is disturbed and the hypocrisy of the rule makers might be uncovered. Without rules people might be able to act as they please which is not the purpose of a group.
Just as in society, with rules must come enforcers. There can be no expectations for people to follow the rules if there is no one to enforce the consequences. This is why authority and leadership are key points in keeping their sense of belonging in a group. It is well known that people tend to lose focus of what is important to them when no one is helping them along, thus the necessity for role expectations. Someone in a group must take responsibility to be relentless and bold, to take charge of situations. Leadership makes it all happen. If there is no leader in a group, it is likely that the group would not accomplish anything as they lose focus. Scatterbrained, people would be staring at each other trying to figure out who does what. Yet with a leader, people follow the example set out. They need a role model, something only a leader can provide. Authority kindles discipline and without authority, discipline is soft.
A leader does not come from just anywhere though. Leadership takes strong beliefs, mediation and a good cause to believe in. All of these features are exerted in the group in order to ensure the rules are followed. The will to enforce such rules is a basic element in the success and cohesiveness of an organization. The members need to believe in their purpose and they need to know that their cause is important. In the end, if the leader doesn’t have the ability to follow through with his/her promises, the group will lose their sense of reason and meaning. They will begin to doubt the purpose of the organization and lose focus of their common goal. This could result in members leaving the group – in other words, exclusion.
Exclusion means you do not agree with the purpose of the organization, you want no part of it, or you decide the rules are not morally valued by your own ideologies. If you believe you are not strong enough to follow through with the group plans or you disagree inherently with the leader, then you are no longer part of the group. You will become an outcast – you will be on the outside. To be excluded is to not belong and means you are different from the group. A strong sense of individuality usually makes it harder to belong to a group unless your ideals are the same. If they are not, it’s easy to become an outcast being picked on or a target for the group. Outcasts are generally victims of society’s scapegoating. It is easy for people in a group to treat anyone who is different from them as somehow valued “less” than the group. Once they are outside the group, they are an easy target to blame for society’s problems. Few members want to stick up them for fear that they too will become outcasts so they remain silent, allowing the scapegoating to continue.
Throughout “The Crucible”, the Christian Church was the main organization responsible for the destiny of Salem’s citizens. Salem’s society was held together based on the concept that the village was entirely sacred and puritan. Everyone was supposed to be part of the Church and follow its beliefs. Strangely, the only reason that held people back from rebelling against the Church was their fear of not belonging. Everyone was so afraid of being an outcast that they forced themselves to go along with the rules of the Church. Purity and holiness are what appealed to the members, what they believed in, but not what kept them in the Church group. They only pretended to believe in all the other rules because they were too afraid to face the consequences of becoming an outcast. Their goal was “to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies” (pg. 7 Miller).
Explicit rules in the Christian church were quite evident in “The Crucible”: the Ten Commandments from the Bible. In Salem, along with any other Christian based town at that time, the Ten Commandments were to be lived and followed exactly as written. If you failed to strictly abide by those rules, suspicions were immediately made based on the circumstances. As in The Crucible, you could be accused of witchcraft and arrested just because you had broken any one of the Commandments. There were other rules or explicit expectations that hid within the text of Mr. Parris’ interpretation of the Bible such as possession of puppets, reading or other questionable behaviour as determined by the Reverends of the Church. For example, Giles Corey’s wife was taken to jail shortly after he complained of her reading books. The importance of the Bible’s interpretation is evident when Reverend Hale questions the Proctor’s faith after discovering their third child had not been baptized yet and that they were frequently absent from Church on the Sabbath. Hale immediately took them into consideration as practising with the Devil ( page 64 ). It’s obvious that a strong belief in the Ten Commandments played a large role in belonging to this organization and that not believing or not following them caused people to become outcasts.
“They believed, in short, that they held in their hands the candle that would light the world.” (page 5) This was the idea of their leaders, the Reverends Parris and Hale in Salem. They were the authority on the Bible, the rules of the Church, and decided on the interpretation of those same rules. Church and State were not yet separated in 1692 in Salem so the dominate moral principles of the Church were easy to enforce on others as their authority was strongest. The Church leaders believed that the morals of the Christian religion and the values determined by the Ten Commandments were equivalent to State law and that those values were to be the law in Salem. By using the Bible’s rules, the leaders became the authority on all laws enforced. And since the laws were based on purity and holiness, no one felt guilty accusing anyone of breaking the laws because everyone wanted to be pure and holy. It was a good way to get rid of any negative enemies present in Salem, if you disagreed, then you were accused of witchcraft and killed for the good of the group by God’s decision. For example, many times the accused witches were given the choice of confession or denial: if they denied being a witch, they were impure for lying and if they confessed to witchcraft then they were guilty anyway. They used holiness to avoid their own feelings of personal responsibility for the killings by passing it off as a God’s wish.
One must have a great cause in mind in order to have the will to follow through with one’s plans. Fear created a strong will in the Crucible, to find a scapegoat, to find someone to blame other than oneself. Abigail, Betty and the other girls who were presumed to be inflicted by the Devil, acted out the fate that no one wanted to be dealt: contact with Lucifer. The girls brought out fears in the townspeople of being possessed my witches, of being accused as one, and no one in the town wanted to face either. Abby and the girls showed quite well what would happen unless something was done about the witches: fatal fate was portrayed by them to uncover the uneasiness in Salem. Thus, a strong will to extinguish this uneasiness and a strong will to save oneself from the destruction of the Devil. Basically, the strong will of the people developed through selfishness, as Mary Warden helped explain. Her selfishness led her to blame John Proctor for contact with the Devil because she knew there was no saving herself otherwise. Through times of distress in Salem, selfishness and self-defence were great sources of motivation to survive accusations of witchcraft. In 1692 Salem, everyone was selfish in one way or another.
And finally, the result of exclusion in the society of Salem were the witches themselves. These people were not excluded just because they were witches, but they were accused because they were different from the others in the town. As a result of their major and minor differences, these excluded people in Salem became the centre of blame for their society. These outcasts called witches were used as a scapegoat for everyone else’s problems. For example, the reason why farmer’s pigs were dying was the witches curse and the reason a woman miscarried was the witches curse. Unfortunately, the Church group placed such enormous amounts of blame on the witches that they did not even have a chance to defend themselves from condemnation. In the witch trials, an innocent victim would tell the truth, denying her involvement as a witch, but be hung anyway for “lying” under oath. On the other hand, an innocent victim could lie and confess her involvement as a witch, accuse another witch instead and be let “off the hook”. However, if the innocent victim lied and confess, but wasn’t willing to turn in another witch, she would be hung anyway. This created quite an ironic situation coming from a Christian based community of purity and holiness.
Exclusion is about scapegoating and denying the truth or reality to oneself. A scapegoat is a person made to bear the blame for others, an escape from dealing with one’s responsibility. The scapegoat lets one rationalize bad situations and blind oneself from the reality of that situation. No one saw the reality in Salem and no one even tried. They were all too caught up in trying to find someone else to blame for their fears and problems. However, organizations tend to do that too. They create an opposition or enemy so they can use it later to their own advantage, making themselves seem more powerful. So the question goes back to, “Are you in? Or are you out?”