Arthur Miller, The Crucible

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#2
Abigail: Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! Goes and roughly sits Betty up. Now, you – sit up and stop this!




Click on the effigy to link to text.


Had thoust not readeth thisuth booketh, readeth it's most sinful contents soon!!
 

okamido

Forum Staff
Jun 2009
29,885
land of Califia
#3



The Crucible
Written by Arthur Miller in 1953, The Crucible is a dramatic retelling of the Salem Witch Trials that took place in the Province of Massachusetts Bay from 1692 to 1693. Written as an allegory for the conduct of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, a Committee that Miller himself was called before and convicted of "contempt of Congress" for refusing to give names of people that shared his political views, The Crucible has become a highly studied benchmark-work on hysteria and the affect it has on a community.

Plot Overview
Beginning directly after an incident in the forest outside of Salem, Massachusetts where a group of girls are caught dancing, the play quickly devolves into a flurry of accusations of sin and witchcraft as the ringleader of the girls, Abigail Williams, seizes the chance to raise her individual status in the theocratic township, a township that places an orphaned, unmarried girl like Abigail, on one of its' lowest rungs. As petty jealousies, greed, and reputations come to the fore, several people fall under the accusations of Abigail and her troop of girls that falsely point out the sinners and practitioners of witchcraft in the tiny township.

Themes
Empowerment
One of the chief themes in The Crucible is empowerment. In a theocratic society, women often have no power within the community. To a greater extant, women that are unmarried, or exist without an immediate family, such as Abigail, operate at one of the lowest levels short of slaves such as Tituba. As the initial accusations of witchcraft are made in an obvious attempt to deflect the attention of the girls and their cavorting alone in the forest, Abigail quickly finds a way to manipulate the community of Salem into raising her status amongst them. By claiming the ability to identify witches and devil-worshippers, Abigail has found herself with the same clout as Reverend Parris, God's earthly representative in Salem.

Intolerance
"You are either with us, or against us." While this statement does not show up in The Crucible, it sums up the environment that allowed for the events contained within to take place. Deviation from the social norm is an unacceptable thing within Salem's community, and you are either in connection with God's purity, or defiled by Satan's whims. As the play opens, Reverend Parris questions Abigail and the other girls as his own daughter Betty lays unconscious, having fainted after her father discovered the girls acting outside of the norm of the community. Even as Abigail initially attempts the truth with the Reverend concerning Betty's fainting from surprise, his incessant pushing and intolerance of the reality of the situation leads to the tragedies that will later take place. Why does Betty faint however? What about the behavior of the girls in the woods. Described as "dancing", it is possible that there are actually sexual overtones to the scene. As the society of Salem taught that sexuality was a sin, it is no wonder that the girls would "vent" the repressions alone in the forest. Another possible reaction to why Parris would be of such an unacceptable nature towards the girl's initial protestations.

Reputation
John Proctor, the main protagonist of the story, is an intelligent and strong willed man with a distaste for hypocrisy. He is also a man full of self-loathing over his own hypocrisy as he had conducted an affair with Abigail while she was a servant in his house. It becomes apparent that Proctor has the ability to end the witch trial early on, as he has direct information form Abigail that her actions are a sham. To do so however would place his reputation in jeopardy, as he would have to admit his wrongdoings with Abigail, thus destroying his credibility in the community. Only when Proctor's wife Elizabeth is accused through the machinations of Abigail, does Proctor attempt to intervene. When Mary, a member of Abigail's troop and an intricate piece in the accusing of Proctor's wife, is convinced to testify on her behalf, Proctor's reputation is ultimately destroyed as the courtroom drama devolves into a torrid scene accusations and counter-accusation, the revealing of unpleasant truths, and the realization by some of the conductors of the trials, that they have been duped. Unable to accept that Abigail has possible deceived them, the leaders of Salem, much like Proctor, find a need to be silent so that their reputations in turn, do not suffer.

Symbolism

The Witch Trials Themselves
Written during the hey-day of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the witch trials within The Crucible are directly set to mirror the proceedings of this anti-Communist organization. Much like the authorities in Miller's work, the HUAC repeatedly made requests of those that testified before it, to names other politically like-minded people. Compliance meant leniency.

The Poppet Doll
Given to Elizabeth Proctor by her servant Mary as a harmless gesture, it become the device by which Abigail accuses her of wrong-doing. Used for evil purposes, the attack on Elizabeth, the poppet symbolizes the once innocence of the girls and how their intentions have deviated from innocence, to the not so pure.
 
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okamido

Forum Staff
Jun 2009
29,885
land of Califia
#4
A question might be, was Abigail's rage towards the town and the Proctors justified, even if the results of its' manifestation was wrong?
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#5
Nice intro okamido. You've covered it so completely I will have to give the play more thought to come up with anything.
 

okamido

Forum Staff
Jun 2009
29,885
land of Califia
#6
Nice intro okamido. You've covered it so completely I will have to give the play more thought to come up with anything.
Thanks Pedro. On covering it, I didn't know if I should have kept it small, or expanded it some. Hopefully it covers just enough not to stymie discussion. ;)
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#7
okamido, well done, a really neat introduction. Excellent. In fact, it has an air of Puritan efficiency. :) Thank you.

Themes: Empowerment, Intolerance, Reputation.

How far would I be justified in adding another theme? How about Confession? As fast as the play produces accusations so too, in almost as great a quantity, does it produce confessions. For instance, Proctor confesses his affair with Abigail, he then later is expected to confess his witchcraft (but doesn't); Tituba is beaten until she confesses; then that confession buys her an audience - it gives her a position; the girls confess. Confession (even if false) buys freedom.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#9
How far would I be justified in adding another theme? How about Confession? As fast as the play produces accusations so too, in almost as great a quantity, does it produce confessions. For instance, Proctor confesses his affair with Abigail, he then later is expected to confess his witchcraft (but doesn't); Tituba is beaten until she confesses; then that confession buys her an audience - it gives her a position; the girls confess. Confession (even if false) buys freedom.
A very valid point. Something I hadn't even considered. If I recall rightly, in the Salem trials over 50 individuals confessed to the crime of witchcraft. After being accused that is. Not unlike the McCarthy hearings where the accused was expected to cooperate in providing evidence to identify other ‘witches’. good point.
 

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