The Crucible Introduction

The Crucible: An Introduction to Life and Times
By Ms. Katz’s Period 8 Students
Puritan Religion
The Crucible was written by American playwright, Arthur Miller, in 1953. The story takes place
during the Salem witch trials, during which many men and women were accused of being witches, and
then sent to trial and executed. The Salem witch trial was largely influenced by the strict religion of the
The puritan religion was the result of many religious splits. During the sixteenth century many
people felt that the major religion, Catholicism, was in need of reform. The puritans felt that the church
need to be “purify”, and thus they were named the Puritans. It emerged as the strictest religion in the
New England colonies. Over time the puritans themselves split, as a result of religious preferences. The
split resulted in the “Separatists” and the original Puritans. The Separatists founded the Massachusetts
colony in 1620, and the Puritans founded the wealthier, Massachusetts Bay colony.
The Puritan lifestyle was governed by the strict rules of their religion. They believed that only
church members could govern the community. Therefore, the leaders of the community were chosen
based on outward display of godliness. Life was governed by the belief that humans were born in sin,
but god chose those who worshiped him to join him in eternal life, and heaven. They also believed that
sinful behavior was punishable by god, and that illnesses were a form of punishment. The worst sin of all
was following Satan, which they called witch craft. Those who did not follow the religious beliefs where
ostracized or banished from the community. The puritans were in many ways intolerant of anyone who
stood to question their beliefs.
The jobs of the Puritan people in the 1600s were similar to the duties of people today. Women
had to keep house, take care of the children, garden, spun and wove cloth for clothing, made clothing
for the entire family, cooked, home schooled, milked cows, fed animals, and performed basic medical
care. Men of the household brought in meat, firewood, heavy labor plowing, cabin building, butchering,
sheering sheep and a lot more. If women did not do what they were supposed to do, they would be out
casted from the society. Puritan women were also very obedient to their husbands and took housework
very seriously.
Puritans were very religious Christians. The church had an immense part in the community and
controlled aspects in puritans lives like how women dress and the way. It was against the law for them
to not attend church. Church was patrolled by a man with a long pole. On one end, a feather to tickle old
men who fell asleep, on the other, a wooden knob to alert children who giggled or slept. During church,
men and women were separated, outside of mass, the church forced to wear dark puritan dresses. The
church taught that the devil was real and worked through women, children, and the insane. Puritans
also believed that misfortunes were punishments from god and that a person should not help a
neighbor on need. They all believed that god chose them for a special reason and that reason was their
purpose in life.
Puritans were expected to work hard. They did not show their opinions or emotions and people
with differences were frowned upon by people, mostly of the church. The literacy rate for puritans was
high because everyone, especially children, were expected to be able to read the bible. Males had
supremacy, enforced by the church, in the puritan culture. Women were not allowed to participate in
town meetings and weren’t allowed to flaunt their body in any way.
In the 1600’s around the time of the witch trials people dressed simple and modest. Woman
wore long sleeved black dresses with white collars, cuffs, and a white bonnet. Men wore a black suit
with white collars and cuffs. The men would also wear a tall black hat, but only on Sundays. Women also
wore a shorter skirt overtop of their petticoats and a corset. Men wore knee length pants and a long
vest with their peasant shirts. For both men and women, there was no such thing as a right or left shoe.
Puritans got their food from hunting, fishing, and farming. Of course, men took care of getting
all their food from those sources because women were stationed in house work. The first few winters
when the Puritans first settled, they struggled with having food. Puritans preserved meats by salting
them or by just eating their sources right away. Since food went bad, spices were in high demand for
Puritans. They used spices to make their food taste fairly better. Pies were also common. Leftovers and
scraps were thrown into pies so nothing was wasted.
Helen Duncan
Helen Duncan was an alleged “witch” during the WWII era. Born in the late 19th century in a
small Scottish town to a cabinet maker, her childhood wasn’t all that affluent. She married another cabinet
maker and had 12 pregnancies (why?), but only six children survived. To sustain this large family, she
had a day job and a night job. Though poor, she found money to donate to the sick. She also gave
Spiritual counsels. It was through the counseling that she discovered a rare psychic gift of “being a
vehicle for physical phenomena whilst in trance state”. This gift brought her fame and she was soon
traveling throughout the war-ravaged Britain giving her famous counseling, which was fabled to
bring loved ones from beyond the grave. These sessions impressed many, but the people’s support
could not save Duncan. She was sentenced to prison for fear of her discovering the D-Day Normandy
landings. (Vsevolod Leskin)
Rebecca Nurse
Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was an old woman with a big family. She was tried when she was 71
years old for witch craft in the town of Salem, Massachusetts. A lot of people felt bad for her and thought
that she was innocent because she looked like a nice little old lady, and had a lot of kids. She looked like
she could do no harm to anyone, and did not have a bad reputation. The court found her not guilty for the
witch craft, and a lot of people were outraged by the decision. She was asked a question after she was
found not guilty, but because she was old it was hard for her to hear so she did not respond. Because of
that she was tried again, found guilty, and was executed on July 19th.
Elizabeth Garlick
Elizabeth Garlick was tried for witchcraft in February of 1657. It was believed that
Elizabeth bewitched Elizabeth Howell, who had died in a state of hysteria only months before
the trial. Elizabeth Howell reported seeing black shapes at the end of her bed and Goody Garlick
before becoming sick. Elizabeth Howell’s mother, Mary, remembered hearing Elizabeth Garlick
and talk to Goody the same night. Many in the town testified that Goody had been forced by
Elizabeth Garlick to kill both Elizabeth Howell and their own child. Miss. Garlick was also
sheltering an Indiana boy which the town’s people had believe she had been sacrificing the kids
to support the boy. In court the jury found not guile of witchcraft and Goody Garlick was not
ether. Goody Garlick die in 1700 and it is unknown when Elizebath Garlick died.
(Avery Weinrich, Emily Levin, Anna Macione, )
Elizabeth Knapp
In Watertown, Massachusetts on April 21st 1655, Elizabeth Knapp was born to James Knapp and
Elizabeth Warren. When Elizabeth was 16 years old, she became a servant in the household on
Reverend Samuel Willard. This was when Elizabeth started to show signs that she was
bewitched or possessed. Her behavior started off mildly as she would burst into spontaneous
laughter and gave abrupt shrieks. Gradually, her behavior intensified and she began to fall into
violent fits. She would often display violent bodily motions and represent a dark resemblance of
hellish torments. She also complained that she was being strangled and attempted to throw
herself into fire. Reverend Willard wondered if she was in distress, suicidal or possessed. One
day she displayed possessed behavior when 6 men had to hold her down as she began to speak in
a demonic tone and harshly thrash around. She was later accused of being a witch and shortly
after she confessed that “Satan had deluded her”. Despite all of the trials and all of the
accusations, Elizabeth Knapp was let free and married Samuel Scripture and lived her life fully
as a puritan wife. She died in 1673 of an unknown cause.
In the 1940s and 50s, the threat of Communism growing in Eastern Europe and China caused great
concern for Americans. During the hysteria, Senator Joseph McCarthy, a republican from Wisconsin,
said he had a list of 250 people who were part of the communist party. This occurred on February 9th,
1950 and formed a basis for McCarthyism, the publication of accusations of things such as disloyalty
without providing real evidence to their offense. Joseph McCarthy’s accusations caused many innocent
people to lose their jobs. Actual members of the Communist party reacted to this by ratting each other
out in an attempt to save themselves. Communists that were found guilty received serious penalties for
their belief. Even writers and journalists that defended Communism or insulted McCarthy were
penalized, violating their right to Freedom of Speech. Through McCarthy’s career he initially gained
much popularity due to his opposition to the Communist part. Through his later years as a public voice,
his support began to deteriorate due to what Republicans saw as him hurting the presidential
administration. McCarthy’s final factor that destroyed him was when he and his research director,
Matthews, published an article titled “Reds in our Churches”. In the article, the protestant clergy was
stated to be “the largest single group supporting the Communist apparatus in the United States.” Not
only was there very little rational evidence or reasoning behind this claim, but the statement outraged
the American public. Later on McCarthy got into trouble with the army and ended up losing the last of
his credibility due to his crude remarks in court hearing charged by the army against him. In his last
years, McCarthy’s public image suffered and later died due to acute hepatitis on May 2, 1957.
McCarthyism was about one man’s paranoia towards the Communist party in America. Like McCarthy
and those who supported him, the Salem Witch Trials were also based around false accusations in blind
fear of mythical creatures.
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