Community vs. Self
An essay inspired by The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

If one is to concentrate on oneself and place the well being of the community second, there will be drastic consequences. Only through support of each other can living things survive; if one, or two, or even the entire population begins living only for individual needs and desires, all love is lost and replaced with selfishness. The common bond connecting those who live together is broken, for what is the point of living with people when they hold no importance compared to oneself? The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is a perfect example of the deviation from community concerns to individual interest resulting in chaos.

In Act One, Tituba defends her own life by destroying the lives of two other women (Sarah Good and Goody Osbourne). Tituba is a slave with almost nothing to lose; what little she does possess - her life, for example - she will hold onto no matter what the cost is. In her eyes, her life is more important than telling the truth. So she was merely protecting what she held most valuable, without thought as to how other people would be affected by her decision. She had the choice of whether or not to tell the truth, no matter what the rest of the community would believe.

The teenage girls panic and start naming people left and right in order to free themselves of even the possibility of punishment. This is extremely selfish. The girls value their reputation more than the lives of others in the community. "My name is good in the village! I will not have it said that my name is soiled!" (Miller 69). Nothing is too great a sacrifice to save one's name, in the girl's opinon. They will go to any lengths to protect their reputations. And yet Tituba was not the one to begin the evil. That responsibility lies at the feet of Abigale Williams.

Abigale chose to disregard all sense of right and wrong in order to follow a whim. She sacrificed the good of the community so that she may chase a foolish dream. Eventually she abandoned everything and ran away, unable to face her mistake. But until she leaves, Abigale leads the path of destruction through Salem. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions; Abigale may have thought she was doing good, but in fact she was tearing apart the lives of dozens of people while hoping to find happiness for herself.

The only person who saw through the madness was John Proctor. He knew his life was not worth the combined lives of the rest of those convicted in Salem. He would not lie to save his life if it meant condemning many innocent people. In a sense, he was the solider fighting the war for his country; he knew if his life could be given to prevent the death of the rest of his people, it was a fair exchange. If everyone in the world thought like him, we would exist in an Utopian society. The people would be one with each other, living not for themselves, but for the benefit of mankind. That is the way it must be in order to justify living in groups instead of alone off in the wilderness, where one is expected to fend for oneself. In a community, the people have common goals, and therefore should act towards those goals - not the wishes of love struck, immature girls. "...God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!" (Miller 120). Proctor realizes that a community must function as a whole, no matter what. Everyone must do their part, or all is lost in the end.

A hundred lives are more valuable than one life. The basic instinct of self-preservation is one thing, but to take it to such extremes as the girls in Salem did is ridiculous. The combined lives of all those in the community hold more worth than the lives of a couple teenage girls. To them it may not seem as such, but when they are more mature they will realize this. Single lives should not be thrown away, but they should not jeopardize an entire population. "With the organization into a social entity, the inner forces aroused are sufficient to bring about the fundamental results of the proud fighting spirit needed to vanquish the immense physical and spiritual power of greed" (Pannakoek). If people stand together, nothing can defeat them.

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