Salvador Dali, Spanish surrealist artist, once said, “Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.” And yet, despite this, there is a widespread pursuit of and desire for perfection, often driven by both societal and religious standards. This unattainable pursuit is a key factor in Arthur Miller’s 1953 play, The Crucible, in which Salem’s Puritan faith drives its citizens to hysteria. Because of perfectionism’s harmful effect on individuals and society, it is important to understand the following research question: To what extent does the Puritan pursuit of perfection contribute to the Salem Witch Trials within The Crucible?
Merriam-Webster defines perfection, in regards to religion, as “the theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth.” The desire for perfection, however, stems into all aspects of life in the form of perfectionism. It can be argued that there are three main manifestations of perfectionism: self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed (Flett and Hewitt 457). Self-oriented perfectionism is driven by one’s own desire to achieve high standards, and as such leads to higher rates of self-blame if not achieved (Flett and Hewitt 457). This form has been associated with anxiety, depression, low-self-regard, and anorexia (Flett and Hewitt 457). The second form is based on “interpersonal perfectionistic behavior,” which involves holding high expectations for others and leads to a lack of trust, feelings of hostility,