Human Nature In Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong And Arthur Miller's The Crucible

3890 words - 16 pages

Human Nature in Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong and Arthur Miller's The Crucible

Both The Crucible, a play written by Arthur Miller, and the novel,
Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks, are pieces of literature based around
historical events. Miller's play is set during the Salem Witch trials
of 1692 and Birdsong concentrates primarily on characters involved in
the First World War which took place from 1914 to 1918. Both of these
periods in history are examples of times when human beings have
displayed the darker side to their nature: the capacity to kill. Both
Faulks and Miller have attempted to explore the reasons behind their
character's actions along with the mechanisms and strong emotions
within humans that make ordinary people capable of committing
atrocities. However, the authors also highlight the positive aspects
of human nature, the great love, courage and loyalty which manages to
emerge unscathed out of the most horrific circumstances.

As I have already mentioned both The Crucible and Birdsong explore
man's capacity to kill other human beings. The two pieces, however,
approach this subject in very different ways. Arthur Miller's play,
set during the Salem Witch hunt, concentrates on the various emotions,
such as fear, greed and revenge, driving individuals to accuse their
friends and neighbours of witchcraft. Birdsong, on the other hand,
depicts a much larger conflict and focuses more on the ability of the
soldiers to withstand the horrors that they are witnessing and
committing everyday.

In his play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller illustrates a great number of
human emotions and tensions within the Salem community which, when
combined, result in the execution of many people on the grounds that
they are witches. It is this gradual culmination of fear, jealousy and
greed which renders the people of Salem capable of condemning each
other to death rather than just a single human trait. One of the main
reasons, cited by Miller, behind the witch-hunt is fear. Salem is a
highly religious society, formed by Puritans who fled England hoping
to set up a more God abiding community and the people live in fear of
the devil. Therefore when Abigail and her friends are seen dancing in
the woods the people of Salem, particularly Reverend Parris,
overreact, fearing that these girls are dabbling with witchcraft - the
devil's work!

ABIGAIL: 'Uncle the rumour of witchcraft is all about: I think you'd
best go down and deny it yourself. The parlour's packed with people
sir. I'll sit with her.'

PARRIS: 'And what shall I say to them? That my daughter and my niece I
discovered dancing like heathen in the forest?'

Once the rumours of witchcraft have become widespread the fear
escalates and eventually it develops into a more primal fear as the
people of Salem become afraid for their own lives. Abigail and her
friends are scared that they will be punished for practising
witchcraft and this prompts them into putting the...

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