Crucible Movie vs. Maryse Conde's I, Tituba Book Term Paper

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¶ … Tituba

Comparing and Contrasting: Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" with Maryse Conde's I, Tituba

The past is never rendered 'perfectly' to a contemporary viewer or reader, particularly an era as far removed from our own as the Puritan era of America. Arthur Miller's tale of "The Crucible" is ostensibly set in Salem, Massachusetts during the 1600s but it is a thinly disguised allegory of the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunt that had taken hold in America when Miller wrote his play, which was later made into a 1996 film. Miller uses the trials to discuss important concerns of the present day in his play, not to recount history. The play immediately illustrates its lack of concern with the facts of the actual events by converting the historical ages of the girls who accused the women of the town from young children to teenagers. This makes the motives of the young women such as Abigail, the instigator of the trials, far more suspect than the strange, apparently innocent and hysterical accusations of girls who seem too young to be calculating.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Crucible Movie vs. Maryse Conde's I, Tituba Book Assignment

Miller is not interested in exploring the psychological reasons for why the young girls hallucinated that they were possessed by witches. Rather, he is interested in why the men of the town believed such unsubstantiated claims. He attributes this authority to a kind of mob mentality and fear. People accuse others, or support the accusers, for fear of being accused themselves, like the Proctors' house servant Mary Warren. John Proctor's wife Elizabeth is accused by Abigail because Abigail is sexually attracted to John Proctor, and Proctor had a brief relationship with Abigail. Abigail's accusation of Elizabeth is self-interested, but the men of the town, out of fear of seeming to condone witchcraft, feed the fury of her jealously. "I am but God's finger, John. If he would condemn Elizabeth, she will be condemned," Abigail smirks to John, in private, although she acts saintly before the elders of the church, and pathetically possessed when in the courts of Salem. Mary goes along with Abigail, and eventually the mob mentality is so intoxicating that Mary wonders if she is not possessed, even though she knows what she is saying is a lie. The lie becomes a truth, if the institutions of society support the lie.

This historical analogy of the 1953 play, later made into a 1996 film, was designed to parallel Senator Joseph McCarthy's self-interested establishment of his own reputation as a freedom fighter which was forged when he accused good Americans of being communists. People went along with McCarthy for fear of being tainted with the slur of communists themselves. The fearful institutions of American governance supported McCarthy's actions. If people named names and confessed their sins after they were accused, they were absolved, but those who remained silent and true to their personal integrity and innocence like John Proctor were condemned.

Ironically, the mob mentality leads to the most principled individuals being tarnished forever. "The 'important theme' that Miller was writing about was clear to many observers in 1953 at the play's opening. It was written in response to Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee's crusade against supposed communist sympathizers....most critics felt that 'The Crucible' was 'a self-contained play about a terrible period in American history'" of the present day (Linder 2007). "Miller's play is about religious hysteria fanned by repressed and denied sexual lust," and in Miller's time, these same emotions were transposed onto political, rather than religious circumstances (Ebert, 1996).

In the real Salem witch trials, one of the most influential voices was that of Tituba who was a Barbados slave and one of the few non-white members of the New England community. In Miller's play she assumes a peripheral role, foolishly teaching a few of the Salem girls harmless tricks, like how to divine their future husband's names. These actions fan the flames of the witch hunt later on. The harmlessness of girls playing at 'spooking' one another is shown particularly effectively in the film, which begins with the girls pretending with Tituba, rather than with the older members of the town. The immaturity of the girls and their taunting of Abigail's fixation on John Proctor make the older Puritan's belief in their veracity even more specious and a demonstration of the power of the mob, however irrational or adolescent the instigators of the hysteria might seem to outsiders.

Tituba has little real dramatic presence in Miller's "Crucible," other than mournfully calling out that she would like to go back to Barbados. However, in the novel I, Tituba by Maryse Conde, this character assumes a central presence. Rather than focus on the witch hunts alone, and the effects of the fear of witchcraft in the hearts of the white members of the community, Conde instead chronicles the life of Tituba. While Miller plays fast and loose with the facts of the actual trial and Salem community to highlight his political concerns regarding the McCarthy hearings, Conde instead prefers to stick to the facts of what are known about Tituba when she discusses the trials. She even includes a transcript of Tituba's deposition in the trial. Thus, she keeps those facts known about the witch hunt relatively accurate to existing historical documentation, but expands upon the bare bones of what is known of this shadowy figure to create a fully-fleshed character and fictional history. No one was interested in Tituba as a human being at the time, but Conde pays her this regard and gives her a voice.

The witch hunt that Conde is primarily concerned with is not that of the Puritan fear of witches, but of the hatred and hypocrisy of whites towards Blacks, what one might call the fear-mongering, hatred, and mob mentality that justifies white supremacy in the dominant culture. Her concerns sprawl beyond the trials. Like Miller, Conde brings her own rubric of analysis or political paradigm to the tale, but it is larger than that of the witch hunt alone. If Miller asks how people can believe in the absurd, collectively, in things such as witches and communists lurking behind every door, Conde asks an even more pressing question. Why has culture evolved in such a way that we accept racism as a matter of course, even after witches have been consigned to the category of things that go bump in the night?

It is fear of the 'other,' the female, the darker skin of some individuals that is a uniquely noxious mob mentality, a mentality that exists even today. In creating Tituba's past story, like Miller creates a relationship between Abigail and John Proctor, Conde hypothesizes to expand upon her thesis about the reasons for the trial, that it was rooted in the hatred of marginal characters. She relates that Tituba was born of a rape of a captive slave-woman by a sailor. "I was born of this act of aggression. From this act of hatred and contempt" (Conde 3). The first-person retrospective narrative voice of Tituba is openly aware of the injustices of society, with almost a contemporary, feminist anger, unlike Miller's play which can only speak in various confused characters' voices in the moment.

Tituba's flesh, the woman is aware, was 'written' with the oppressive legacy of slavery from birth. Then, following her lover John Indian to Salem, Tituba learns that no good deed goes unpunished when her healing arts are mistaken for witchcraft, and she is accused by the daughters of Samuel Parris, the minister John Indian works for as a slave. Tituba in the book does talk to spirits, but they are healing spirits from her native land, not evil spirits. It is not merely the mob mentality that creates a fear of witchcraft and fear of people who are different -- almost all of the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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