When deconstructing text and trying to come up with a black and white answer about whether America is a misogynist society is something of a challenge due to the fact that contradictions are always going to appear. I believe that it is a matter of opinion and it is down to the interpretation of the reader whether or not America is in fact a misogynist society. However, exploring Arthur Millers, The Crucible, which is a play based on the Salem witch hunts in 1692 but is a reflection of McCarthyism which concerned Miller at the time he wrote the play in 1953 and also Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, I hope to find an answer in which I can argue to another fully, although in another opinion somebody else may disagree. An important part of my research is also going to include women’s rights in America’s society today and also in history.
It is known that women have had fewer priorities than men, for example voting rights, throughout the 19th century this has changed and women now have a lot of the same rights as men. Women have always been regarded as homemakers and men as the breadwinners. It has also been the men that have predominantly been in power in politics. Dorothy McBride Stetson writes, ‘Women have had equal voting rights for seventy-years, yet men hold formal political power. Apparently women and political power don’t mix. It’s not that women don’t participate, they out number men in the electorate by nearly 10 million votes…Yet women remain a minority of policy makers’1
The first play in which I am going to deconstruct and analyse is Arthur Millers, The Crucible. Miller’s plays reflect social and moralistic values that people are faced with everyday. His writing challenges these issues head on. It tells the story of the Salem witch trail in 1692. The Crucible is a dramatised account of what happened in Salem at that time. Although, ‘The fate of each character is exactly that of his historical model, and there is no one in the drama who did not play a similar – and in some cases exactly the same – role in history.’2
I discovered that the crucible is also a reflection, although slightly blurred, of society today. The institutions of today are formed within the play for example, the town council and the church. The crucible captures a community and portrays this throughout the script using the relationships of all the characters and status. This convention of the courts possessing a higher power mirrors the legal system today. in act four women being less equal than men is most evident.
Danforth’s character is the deputy governor. He has power over the community to condemn a person for a crime, he was the ‘rule-bearer’. He is a character which is over ridden with power and is not aware of his own mistakes. I found that his character has no thoughts or feelings for the women in the play only his own status and the language he uses to address the women does not contain any respect. In act four he says: Goody Proctor, you are not summoned her for disputation. Be there no wifely tenderness within you? He will die with the sunrise. Your husband. Do you understand it?
What say you? Will you contend with him? Are you stone? I tell you true, woman, had I no other proof of your unnatural life, your dry eyes would no be sufficient evidence that you delivered up your soul to hell! A very ape would weep at such calamity! Have the devil dried up any tear of pity within you? Take her out. It profit nothing she should speak to him!