‘The led” which implies that he won’t conform

‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie’ show how isolation can lead
to hysteria, paranoia and desperation. Being restricted from exploring and
integrating with the rest of society can be suffocating as the human psyche is
easily shaped by experiences, or the lack thereof. Both Miller and Williams
show how the fear of being alone and being isolated can push individuals and
society to its limit, creating tension and conflict.

Being isolated can have many psychological effects on an individual.
When communities choose to remain on the outskirts of society rather than
integrate with it, beliefs can quickly become extreme and result in chaos. ‘The
Crucible’ is set in Salem, a small town in Massachusetts, which is surrounded
by wilderness that threatened the community with its inhabitants: Native
Americans and the Devil. The people of Salem believed that only strict
religious practice and devotion could keep them safe from the danger that
encircled them (Farrar, 2003). In the opening scene of Act One, the
villagers of Salem are described as a “sect of fanatics” which suggests that
every individual conformed to the theocracy and abided by the rules,
restrictions and expectations of the religious community. John Proctor is
introduced in Act One as a deviator, “powerful of body, even-tempered and not
easily led” which implies that he won’t conform to the majority if he
disagrees. As well as being physically isolated from the rest of the community
(he lives five miles out of town) his beliefs differ from the rest of society
as he refused to believe that Abigail and the girls were victims of witchcraft which
eventually made him a target of the courts during the trials – “guilt was a
matter of accusation, of being named” (Sundstrand, 2010).

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 While Proctor faced accusation
because his views were not accepted by his peers, Tom in ‘The Glass Menagerie’
wished for a different life but is trapped by his duties of taking care of his
mother and sister. The Depression in the 1930s created a massive financial
crisis that broke families apart and left many men jobless. People escaped the
harsh realities by living in fantasies, such as going to the movies and other
social events. Much to his mother’s displeasure, Tom spent much of his free
time at the movies, which acted as a temporary distraction from his monotonous
warehouse job. When Amanda confronted Tom about his tendency to drink and stay
out until late at night, he responded by saying “for sixty-five dollars a month
I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever!” His frustration is highlighted in the parenthesis by a “turgid smoky red glow” which shows how
the atmosphere changes fast in the tiny apartment. Both Tom and Proctor have
aggressive outbursts during which they tend to be quite extreme, in ‘The
Crucible’ Proctor exclaims, “I say – I say – God is dead!” Furthermore, in ‘The
Glass Menagerie’, Tom says “I’d rather somebody picked up a crowbar and
battered out my brains – than go back mornings!” Tom and Proctor are both
resentful characters who have trouble controlling their tempers. Consequently,
this isolates them from the other characters and evokes sympathy from the
reader because all they wanted was to be set free from the iron grips of their

Abigail in ‘The Crucible’ is behind all of the rumours and accusations
that spread across Salem after she, along with several other girls, were
discovered dancing in the woods. To avoid punishment, Abigail created an
extreme lie in order to save herself. In the rigid Puritan society,
individuality and desire was forbidden, therefore anyone who failed to suppress
their material or sexual desires were considered a threat to society unless
they pursued what they wanted with guidance from the Church (Schiedt & Denis, 2016). Abigail would have
faced a dreadful punishment as Proctor had an affair with her and then she
plotted the death of his wife. As the leader of the group she is presented as a
cunning and manipulative character. When Betty tries to tell the truth Abigail
“smashes her across the face” to stop
her from talking – the verb “smashes” is onomatopoeic and aggressive,
reinforcing her desperation to keep her true intentions of murdering Elizabeth
a secret. In Act Three, she managed to convince everyone in the courtroom
(apart from Proctor) that Mary has ‘drawn her spirit’ on her, “Mary Warren, utterly confounded, and
becoming overwhelmed by Abigail’s – and the girls’ – utter conviction, starts
to whimper, hands half raised, powerless, and all the girls begin whimpering
exactly as she does.” The parenthesis from this scene displays Mary’s
terrified body language and how defenceless she felt. The lack of dialogue increases
the tension and creates a chilling atmosphere for the audience, as we realise
how much power Abigail held over not just the girls, but the entire courtroom.
As Salem is an isolated town that kept to itself, paranoia spreads fast when
someone makes an accusation as serious as witchcraft – especially in a Puritan
community where individuality is not encouraged as everyone is expected to have
the same values and be part of the same faith.

Similarly, however in a much subtler way, Laura turned to fantasy to
save herself from her harsh reality. Being “crippled” proved to be a challenge
for Laura as she struggled with her self-esteem and faced pressure from her
mother and brother to marry so that they will no longer have to support her
financially. Laura’s glass figures are not just symbolic of her mental and
physical fragility, but they act as a retreat for her to escape from the ugly
world that surrounded her – which Williams represents as the “dark, narrow
alleys” and “murky canyons of tangled clotheslines” (Parlato, 2011). When one of her glass figures broke
while she was dancing with Jim, she called it “a blessing in disguise” when it
actually symbolises the heartbreak Laura experienced when she found out her
only Gentleman Caller was engaged to be married. This is further reinforced
when “Tom smashes his glass on the floor”
and leaves the apartment – the family broke apart again and their hopes are
lost. While Abigail used her fantasy to isolate others, such as Mary Warren and
Proctor when they turned against her, Laura used her fantasy to isolate herself
from her cruel reality of crushed hopes and dreams.

The theme of blame occurs in both ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Glass
Menagerie’. The characters in ‘The Crucible’ constantly shifted the blame to
many innocent villagers in Salem. From an audience’s perspective, Abigail,
along with the girls she was dancing with in the woods are to blame because
their lies resulted in many people being wrongfully hung. The accusations
happened like a chain reaction, with Tituba as the catalyst. Tituba was the
first character to confess she had worked for the Devil, thus accelerating the
seriousness of Abigail’s claims and acting as the “trigger” for the trials to
come (Brooks, 2011). Throughout the trials, many people
were charged with witchcraft; there wasn’t any physical evidence needed for
anyone to be accused. Furthermore, people of all social standings were charged,
from homeless women to well-respected religious women. Goody Osburn was
homeless, as Mary said, “I must not accuse this woman, for she sleep in
ditches, and so very old and poor” yet she is still sentenced to death after
she failed to recite her commandments. Also, Rebecca Nurse, a religious and
charitable woman in her seventies, was sentenced to death after she refused to
confess, “Rebecca have not given me a word this three month since she came.”
Miller wrote ‘The Crucible’ in the 1950s, which is when McCarthyism took place.
Senator Joseph McCarthy’s speech in 1950 led to national paranoia, after he made
a speech saying that there were 205 members of the Communist Party who worked
for the United States Department of State (Wall, 2009).
This resulted in many investigations and accusations of suspected communists:
‘The Crucible’ is allegory to ‘McCarthyism’.

While Miller addressed the issues of McCarthyism and how it echoed the
Salem Witch Trials, Williams addressed The Great Depression. The Wingfields
struggled financially without Tom and Laura’s father to support them with
another income. In the parenthesis of the first scene, his photograph in the
living toom is described as if he is a character that would appear later in the
play. Williams writes, “he is gallantly
smiling, ineluctably smiling, as if to say ‘I will be smiling forever'”.
Williams’ word choices of “gallantly” and “ineluctably” perfectly describe the
father, as they mean charming and inescapable. Amanda frequently talks about
him throughout the play as she refers to how charming he was compared to all
her other Gentlemen Callers. Even though he left the family to adventure and
pursue his dreams of travel, his memory still loomed in the apartment,
reminding them daily of his departure. Tom described his father as “a telephone
man who fell in love with long distances” and that the last message they
received from him was a postcard from Mexico saying “Hello – Goodbye!” with no
address. Tom’s tone is bittersweet: on one hand he could understand the reason
for his father’s departure as he wished to escape from the suffocating
apartment himself, yet on the other hand he was hurt by the abandonment because
he was made responsible for taking care of his mother and sister which
prevented him from pursuing his adventurous dreams as well. Blame in ‘The
Crucible’ reflects how an isolated town can quickly become paranoid once people
start to deviate from their social norms, while in ‘The Glass Menagerie’, the
absent father is blamed for their isolation, as his lack of emotional and
financial support has cut them off from the rest of the world.

The isolation in ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie’ stems from
the lack of solid relationships between the characters. For example, John and
Elizabeth Proctor become so far estranged after John had an affair with young
Abigail, by the time the trial comes there is not enough time for the married
couple to heal and save each other from Judge Hathorne’s harsh sentencing (Sarangi, 2013). Abigail’s
persistence gradually erodes Proctor’s patience and drives him to insanity, “I
hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face!” Here he admits to his sins –
except he’s not referring to witchcraft, he’s referring to his adultery with
Abigail. Throughout the novel Proctor never forgives himself for having an
affair and causing his wife’s misery, “I think you’re sad again.” Therefore,
his confession is not for the sake of the town, but for the sake of his wife.
This also highlights the patriarchal society: men were punished less than
women. If a married man had an affair, he would be charged with fornication and
could end up being whipped at a public post, whereas a woman would be whipped
or even executed for her sins as she was viewed as “the temptress” (Clark, 2001). Despite being able
to receive a lesser charge than if he was female, Proctor still chooses to be
executed because he can’t live on knowing that he was unfaithful to Elizabeth.

Furthermore, Amanda’s fragile relationship with both of her children
resulted in both Tom and Laura turning to their fantasies in order to fulfil
their happiness. Amanda was unaware that Laura had been truanting her business
college, “from half past seven till after five every day you mean to tell me
you walked around in the park, because you wanted to make me think that you
were still going to Rubican’s Business College?” Amanda’s disbelief is evident
as she carefully explains the situation out loud and in detail, which shows how
much Laura shuts her mother out of her life. The pressure Laura felt seemed to
be too much for her to handle, as the “legend
on screen” becomes “The Crust of
Humility”. The word “crust” implies the edge of something, as though they
are grasping for a better life with more money. Laura is warned that not
becoming educated will result in her becoming financially dependent on Tom and
Amanda. In the 1930s, women had to get married by a certain age otherwise they
would be labelled as a spinster. If the woman was educated, she would be able
to support herself financially, but if she wasn’t then she would have to become
dependent. Amanda tries to encourage Laura to become independent, “what is left
but dependency all our lives? I know so well what becomes of unmarried women
who aren’t prepared to occupy a position.” However, Laura’s very low
self-esteem, which she believes is because of her disability, means that she is
not confident enough to become an independent, career driven woman, she “twists her hands nervously”.        

In both ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and ‘The Crucible’, isolation is the
root cause of the misery of many of the characters. The father’s abandonment in
‘The Glass Menagerie’ ruptures the typical nuclear family that was expected at
the time and pushed each member to their limit, breaking the family apart even
further.  Tom’s desire to travel and
explore the world is crushed by his responsibilities of taking care of his mother
and sister. Whilst Amanda is stuck in her memories as she constantly reminisces
about her husband, Laura is frozen in her fantasy world of fragile, glass
figurines. Although they are living under the same roof, there is still a
strong sense of loneliness because none of the characters are fulfilled and
each is dealing with their own feelings of resentment and unhappiness. Their
family bond is not enough to keep them together as each of them have their own
dreams for the future. Similarly, but on a much larger scale, the town of Salem
is isolated from the rest of society and relies solely on traditions, myths and
religion to enforce laws upon their citizens. The surrounding forestry and the
extreme beliefs that are forced upon every person create a tense, suffocating
atmosphere in which many of the characters felt imprisoned by. This is perhaps
what led Proctor to rebel against the Church and Abigail to manifest such an
awful and destructive lie that caused the hangings of many innocent people of
Salem. The lack of trust and solidarity and the inequalities of the social
classes led to the deaths of many.