“How to Escape the Consequences of Your Actions” – An AP Language Process Essay

Rachel Ledoux, Editor

The following is a process essay written for Mrs. Hebert’s AP Language and Composition class.

How to Escape the Consequences of Your Actions

Were you recently caught red-handed dancing naked in the woods? Are you living in a Puritan society where such naked dancing is forbidden? Are you and your naked-dancing companions now being faced with a horrid punishment like a lashing? Well, you’re in luck! There is now a simple solution that will help you escape any and all accountability for your actions: accusing an innocent person of witchcraft. Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Choose Your Mark. The single most important -and most difficult- aspect of your alibi is selecting an appropriate victim. You cannot be too careful with this step. This person will be held accountable for your actions, under the guise of witchcraft, so you must be sure that whomever you choose will not interfere with your scheme. You’ll want to choose someone ostracized by your Puritan society – this could mean someone with a history of poor behaviors, someone widely disliked, or your black magic-practicing slave named Tituba. Remember, the goal with this step is to ensure that, no matter what defenses your victim offers up, they will not be believed by society at large. You should also hold off on accusing any high-status members of the community for right now. The time will come for that. Until then, choose wisely!

Step 2: Set The Scene. You’ll want to pull out some of your best acting tricks for this step. A simple “I was possessed by the Devil,” will not cut it. Instead, make sure to sob uncontrollably, scream at the sight of your chosen scapegoat, faint, and tremble in horror at the mention of religious paraphernalia. It’s crucial that your partners in naked dancing play along at this stage as well. Try to coordinate efforts and reactions to promote the idea that you were all possessed in similar manners, while still maintaining some degree of difference in case you want to accuse more innocents of witchcraft down the road. 

Step 3: Silence the Naysayers. Well done! You’ve successfully convinced most of your town that the slave, or loner, or former naked-dancer is responsible for your actions. But don’t let your newfound victory pull down your guard. With accusations such as these, there are bound to be some who doubt you. Fellow townspeople may imply that you’re lying, still possessed, or even -gasp!- sleeping with their husbands. In order to counter these claims, the most proactive solution is to simply dig yourself an even bigger hole. That old guy with a ton of land thinks you’re a fake? Most of the town wants his property anyways! Accuse him of being a witch and laugh while he’s crushed to death under a pile of stone blocks. The town hero’s wife thinks you got a little too close to her husband while you were working for her? Good thing you have the upper hand, and can get her tried for witchcraft, too. Bonus points if you manage to woo her husband while she’s in prison. It’s also important to note at this stage that your former allies in naked dancing may begin to lose their nerve. No need to fret! A little fear-mongering and a few threats of accusations thrown their way will clear that up real quick. 

Step 4: Generate an Allegiance. Another essential step in securing your escape is establishing a network. While you cannot rely fully on anyone but yourself in this mission, there’s no harm in using others’ emotions to your advantage. Once the potential of witchcraft has been brought up, your fellow townspeople will surely jump at the chance and begin tossing around their own accusations. Old land disputes, rivalries, and poor attitudes are all perfect kindling for an accusation fire. And it’s up to you to feed that flame. Town drama and old grudges can be stirred up with little trouble, after all. Make the most of this opportunity and make sure those doubts and concerns about neighbors are embedded in every single person. Be sure to take advantage of any birth-given privileges you may have, as well. If your uncle happens to be the town pastor, you may have more success gathering allies. You can also utilize any natural charm and womanly skills you may have to dazzle the powerful men of your town into doing your bidding and convicting those accused. No one ever said adultery was off the table.

Step 5: Relish in Your Victory (and Flee!) Congratulations! You have successfully escaped personal accountability and caused the deaths of dozens of innocent people. The only thing left to do now? Run for your life before everyone figures out the truth. It doesn’t matter where you go – though Barbados is certainly the most appealing – as long as you escape your potential fate. Down the line, your successes may even be written about in admiration by one Arthur Miller. 

As long as you follow these instructions to the letter, you are sure to escape your Puritan town without any real ramifications for your naked dancing. The townspeople may not be thrilled with the impact of your witch accusations but, then again, that isn’t really your problem, is it? All that matters is that you got off scot-free, and hopefully with your no-longer married affair partner by your side! There is a slight possibility that he turns on you, and is hung for witchcraft, but the odds of that are infinitesimal. Not nearly a strong enough possibility to affect your carrying out of these steps. You have your own back to save, after all. And save it you will! All because of this helpful step-by-step guide to avoiding personal responsibility. And not only will this guide save you from your current community, but these methods will work in nearly any society, Puritan or not! Never again will you fear the consequences of your own actions. You’re welcome.