Comparing The Crucible and The Lord of the Flies

‘The representation of human experiences makes us more aware of the ANOMALIES, PARADOXES AND INCONSISTENCIES in human behaviour and motivations, inviting the responder to see the world differently’.

The greatness and richness of the human experience will always be infinite because not one human being thinks the same. Human experiences shape an individual’s personality and way of thinking, which molds the collective societal experience. The world contains a sea of writers that have produced brilliant works throughout time and have influenced people with them, making people more open and accepting to the different kinds of cultures, perspectives, religions, opinions, ideas, values, and time periods. The Crucible is a historical fiction play written by Arthur Miller in 1952 that takes its form as a four-act structure. It is a satirical, political allegory and explores the concept of McCarthyism through the Salem Witch Trials. Authorial intrusion and irony helps Miller use the Salem Witch Trials in The Crucible to showcase the behaviour and societal attitudes that the McCarthyism Era brought to the American people. The Lord of the Flies is a bildungsroman and is also a satirical, political, and societal allegory by William Golding. It is during a fictional worldwide war in 1950 and is about a group of British boys that are marooned on an island and how they try to survive. The characters represent different aspects of humanity that were present in World War Two, however the themes within the text are universal. The themes of realization of power and man versus society are within both texts and explore the impact that mob mentality has on the societies within the texts.

The realisation of power stems from being aware that a person has control over something or someone. They have the authority to give out orders and influence the life of the people around them. The realization of power can turn some individuals to become intoxicated by the ecstasy they feel when they fulfill their desires, causing them to abandon common moral codes. In The Crucible, Miller portrays the realisation of power through the antagonist of the play, Abigail Williams. When Abigail realises that she has the power over authority figures like Parris and Hale by telling lies, she continues to use and tell lies for her advantage. The dialogue and authorial intrusion, “Abigail: I saw Goody Sibber with the Devil! [it is rising to a great glee]”, creates the impression of an exhilarating and joyous mood. She is portraying genuine emotion as she is excited that she is a step closer to being with John Procter. Her plan is to accuse women of witchcraft, mainly Elizabeth Proctor as she fired Abigail for having an affair with her husband. When Abigail declares witchcraft onto people, it provides her with instant status and recognition within Salem because the people of Salem see her as a good moral force that can’t be reckoned with because of the assumption she innocent, as she is a child. The recognition she receives gives her the power to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Elizabeth Proctor says to her husband, “The town’s gone wild, I think. She [Mary] speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel.” The metaphor and biblical allusion used indicates the status that Abigail has in the Puritan society as she is being treated like and compared to Moses, as holy. She is successful in portraying herself as innocent, naïve and pure. This is what gives her power because she can deceive by presenting a false pretence to the court. In The Lord of the Flies, Ralph is the elected leader and is the representation of order, civilization, and productive leadership in humanity. He creates the rules that mimic the civilised world by calling meetings using the conch. The conch is used by Ralph as a social tool and it symbolises democracy. “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.” The mood Ralph creates is inviting as he is making sure that all the boys will be treated fairly and equally in the decision-making process. “Something deep in Ralph spoke for him. ‘I’m chief. I’ll go. Don’t argue.’ He turned to the others. ‘You. Hide here. Wait for me.’ He found his voice tended either to disappear or to come out too loud.” Ralph’s voice suggests he is unsure as his pitch is going up and down, this indicates that he is scared and nervous, however he recognises his responsibility as the leader and goes first anyway. The quote suggests that he feels disconnected and is dissociating because he doesn’t have control of the voice because he doesn’t recognise it, but tries to make himself present by taking the lead. Therefore, it is clear that the theme of realisation of power is presented in The Crucible and The Lord of the Flies.

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The Man vs Society trope explores how an individual becomes an outcast in their community because they disagree with the majority, therefore deciding to act on their own opinion. They are extremely convicted in what they believe in. People are scared to be outcast because they are desperate to belong to something, so they feel important, valuable, and heard in a community. However, in more recent times there has been a push for the celebration of individualism, and for society to accept people as they are. In the Crucible, the Proctors symbolizes goodness. However, they don’t believe in witches, whereas the majority Puritans in Salem do. When Reverend Hale questions Elizabeth, she tells him what she believes in. “Elizabeth: I-I cannot believe it. /Hale [shocked]: You cannot! /Elizabeth (to Hale]: I cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul, Mr Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it…” When Hale asks John Proctor, he knows that he has to be careful with his response, because he might get in trouble and he has the responsibility to provide for his family. “Proctor: [he knows this is critical, and is striving against his disgust with Hale and with himself for even asking answering]: I know not but I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be which is in the world – although I cannot believe they come among us now. /Hale: then you do not believe –/Proctor: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.” Proctor doesn’t deny that there are witches that are mentioned in the bible, but he doesn’t mention that he doesn’t believe there are witches in real life. However, Hale interprets it differently and thinks that Proctor does believe in witches. It is ironic because Proctor is supposed to represent purity and goodness, but he twists the truth in order to save himself. Similarly, in The Lord of the Flies, Ralph believes that there should be some type of order and structure and rules that they boys should follow, so chaos doesn’t ensue. However, as the novel progresses, the boys abandon Ralph as their leader and choose Jack as their leader instead. They don’t follow Ralph because they believe that rules are boring and they want to be part of the glory of hunting, eating meat and having fun with Jack. The boys that join Jack’s group use warpaint to hide their identity and escape individual responsibility while they share a common mindset as a mob. This allows them to feel justified while they terrorize Ralph. “Ralph stirred restlessly in his narrow bed. One chanced nothing! What could they do? Beat him?” The rhetorical questions that Ralph asks indicates that he does not know what is going to happen to him. He is scared for his life, because a game and dance that Jack and the boys used to play has turned into the boys hunting and harming Ralph. A sharpened stick at both ends symbolises the savagery that has engulfed the boys. When the boys were chanting, they were so consumed in their bloodlust that they didn’t realize that they were killing Simon. “‘Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!’ The blue-white scar was constant, the noise unendurable. Simon was crying out something about a dead man on a hill. ‘Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!’ The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the centre, its arms folded over its face.” Golding creates an ominous and gruesome mood by dehumanising Simon, making the mob think he is the beast and has the boys continuously chanting. Therefore, Man vs Society is clearly portrayed in The Crucible and The Lord of the Flies in the form of mob mentality.

In conclusion, The Crucible and The Lord of the Flies are the quintessence of the human experience as they have clearly depicted the anomalies, paradoxes, and inconsistencies of life. The two texts aid the reader into gaining a better understanding of the world as they delve into the different ideas, opinions, and values that humans hold, therefore challenging the reader’s thinking which helps them expand their view of the world. As the reader compares the two texts to their own world, it helps them to deal with and create experiences that allow them to grow as a person, hence making the world a better place.

Author: Zayna