Judjement Of Women In Year Of Wonders And The Crucible
Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and Geraldine Brooks novel Year of Wonders both illustrate the views and consequences of strict adherence to the Puritan Theocracy. Religion has historically been sought to provide answers, often offering consolation and strength but at times also providing a pretext for persecution and oppression. Year of Wonders and The Crucible both demonstrate the way that women are judged more harshly than men for their moral failings. The judgmental ramifications of blind expectations for religious beliefs express a biased and limited understanding of human suffering in times of crisis for the insular societies of both Salem and Eyam. However Brooks Year of Wonders, also portrays positive consequences and shows how women can break free of the judgmental patriarchal society during times of sorrow even when faced with a litany of horrors. John Proctor from the Crucible explicitly conveyed the view “ It is a whores vengeance.” As well as Michael Mompellion from Year of wonders “Because lust caused the sin, I deemed that she should atone” show the harsh judgment towards women, which is constantly revealed throughout the settings, characters, language devices and endings. Ultimately, the text pairings display the vulnerability of women when they don’t conform to the expectations within a male dominant world.
Millers play and Brooks’ novel are set during the second half of the seventeenth century, approximately 30 years apart. Year of Wonders focuses on the lives of the villagers in the plague-stricken town of “Eyam” in the spring of 1665, in a small “village” North of England. This compact community suffers the effects of isolation arising from the decision to quarantine the town. Whereas, the Crucible was set in “spring of the year 1692” in “Salem”, Massachusetts. Unlike Eyam, Salem was an isolated town, with minimal interaction to outside towns and communities. The rigid hierarchy of Salem divides society where respected men at the pinnacle, whilst women and children occupy the lower region.
Ultimately, this allowed the strong characteristics of the “Puritan religion” to be freely expressed through their negative views and highlight how women can be judged more harshly and restrained by limitations living within a male chauvinism society.
Both The Crucible and Year Of Wonders illustrate the Judgment that women face in their harsh societies, as their actions are often limited by the male dominated communities.
Elinor was a young and beautiful wife where her physical delicacy and generous attitude towards others made the whole town see her as the embodiment of innocence and purity, however had a hidden past. As a teenager she has a premarital affair and illegitimate pregnancy ending with a self-induced abortion. She considers herself forever marked by sin, Elinor was judged by her own husband Mompellion who became known to use her past transgressions to punish her stating “because lust caused the sin, I deemed that she should atone”. Mompellion was the unofficial leader of the village where his aim that “none should die alone” motivated him to voluntarily isolate the village, however soon suffers a crisis of faith following Elinor’s death suggesting from his inner conflict that he feels he has betrayed her deeply. He is destroyed by what he sees as his own hypocrisy, judging only himself for the failing of the Eyam community and his
Similarly in the Crucible, Elizabeth Proctor has little to no freedom over her decisions as she is unable to break free of her role as Proctor’s wife. She fires Abigail Williams as her servant when she discovers that the girl is having an affair with her husband John Proctor. Elizabeth has a sense that she doesn’t deserve him and blames herself for his staying from her as “it takes a cold wife to prompt lechery”.
During the climax of the court case, Proctor reaffirms his loyalty and commitment to Elizabeth, he is shamed by his illicit affair with Abigail and deems himself to be a “fraud” in comparison with the goodness of others. “My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man” however changes his attitude just before he is to be hanged where he decides to defend his name, “Now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor”, he dies with no judgment from his fellow community members however battles judgment within himself.
Essentially, these two texts highlight the lack of empowerment and control women face over their own decisions including the harsh judgment from their past and present from men within their lives.
Yet, while the texts do show the bleak judgment over women, both also demonstrate how some women can free themselves from the misogynistic society during times of tragedy while others through the use of religious manipulation for personal gain.
Protagonist Anna Frith in Year of Wonders lives in a constricted and confined society that is limited by her status where she serves as an inexperienced and dependent house made for the Mompellions. This is also demonstrated in her immediate acceptance of marriage proposed by Sam when she was “just fifteen” where her only other option was to live with her father in a “joyless place”. However Anna was able to grasp the opportunity to explore her full potential through the development of her knowledge on herbs and natural remedies becoming one of the most indispensable members of Eyam helping to release herself from the confines of her gender expectations as well as her beliefs in God, questioning her faith and the purpose of the plague. In contrast, Joss Bont, Anna’s father is clearly portrayed as a villain during the plague alongside Aphra Bont where they both seek to profit from the misfortune of others, where society lead to judge him, he felt no remorse proving that his actions are purely driven by self-interest. similarly, Abigail Williams is a young girl who is willing to sacrifice the innocent lives of others for her own. As an act for self-defence against being accused of dancing in the woods she blames Tituba, a Barbados slave. She realises that through witch accusations she could free herself from the judgment of the patriarchal society from her moral failings. Abigail however was seen in a different light by Danforth once Proctor reveals her as a “whore” only wanting “vengeance” as Abigail was jealous of Elizabeth ever since John has stopped his affair with her. Whilst Miller emphasises how women can manipulate the social ladder and influence society through acquiring power, Brooks portends the importance of female empowerment and their ability to break free from judgment held by men through providing themselves to be contributing and skilled members of society.
In both texts, the structure allowed for religious faith to play a task in times of crisis where women were the main cause of the inflicting mass hysteria to be featured and dramatically expressed. Mass hysteria refers to a phenomenon that transmits collective illusions of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population in society as a result of rumours and fear. Superstition of witchcraft and the unknown cause of the plague sparking mass hysteria in their religious societies, causing people’s faith to sway. From the very beginning of Brookes play, mass hysteria arises when Betty had fallen into a strange coma where she “could not wake” instantly attracting the attention of the community where rumours began about “unnatural things” such as the devil. This hysteria continued to be displayed explicitly throughout the play, when accusations where made leading to “seventy-two condemned to be hanged” for witch-craft and signing “the devils book”. However the play not only started with hysteria but also ended with it when Proctor, Rebecca and Martha Corey were hanged choosing integrity over life. In contrast, Year of wonders also experiences mass hysteria through the middle of the novel expressed explicitly. Mem and Anys Gowdie where thought to be using witchcraft as people feared their power to cure illness. The moment “ten or twelve people” threw Mem Gowdie into the water to try to see if she was a witch or not. The two texts greatly showed how women created the trigger of mass hysteria displaying how the superstition of faith can eliminate all rational thoughts of villagers as well as liberate and judge women.
The crucible and Year of Wonders conclusions both show the way religion is interpreted and how it can impact on the constraints women can face in which they can either break free from the judgment of men to a degree of negative and positive outcomes.
Year of Wonders concludes with much optimism shown by Anna becoming a smart and independent women marrying a famous doctor “Adhmed Bay” changing her name enabling Anna to have a fresh start. Anna was constrained from the start of the start having to choose living a life with so many limitations however Anna took this opportunity to start her own life being free from constraints. In contrast, The Crucible did not have such a hopeful ending where Proctor, Martha Corey and Rebecca are hanged “over the town”. The community is left devastated and stunned knowing some of their most loyal citizens were hanged to hold their morals, to blame only themselves and the unreasonable speculations of others. The witch-hunts and the bubonic plague each become both actual and symbolic terror that conceal deep-seated constriction within women and their community.