Arthur Miller's Skill in Revealing Character, Plot and Theme in The Crucible
A crucible is a container in which metal and other materials are
heated so as to separate the pure metals from waste and impurities.
The crucible in the title is a metaphor for the town of Salem and the
period of witch-hunt madness. In the 'fire', some victims survive the
temptations and fears and emerge as better and stronger people.
Also two other books have been based on the seventeenth-century
witch-hunts: The Lancashire Witches and the Mist over Pendle
In the 17th Century, God was perceived as male and men were seen as
the natural enforcers of God's will. Women were seen as unstable
because of the biological function. This was a time when peoples
role's in society were dearly defined by gender; Men needed to be
physically strong to build, farm and fight off the savage American
native Indians. Women had to be fertile; their role was domestic and
some light farming chores (unskilled).The mans job was to keep his
wife and daughters under control. i.e. always wearing a bonnet, they
had to be decent on Sunday which entailed wearing gloves and having
their prayer books, they also had to keep there eyes down when walking
past a male other than her fiancée or husband.
There is a tension that builds slowly and dramatically throughout the
play to a fitting climax when Proctor tells his confession and we know
that he has chosen to die.
"If it is a lie, I will not die for it".
This quote quantifies that Proctor is willing to die for his errant
The audience feels gradually more involved as the play continues and
we get to know their personalities.
At first, we watch all of them wondering who can be trusted.
The tension increases to a peak when we recognise that John Proctor is
the hero as he challenges authority and Rev. Parris is the weak
representative of the authority. "The brainless man". John is pushed
to such an extreme that he condemns himself by shouting "God is dead"
He means dead in Salem, but his words are used against him.
We get more involved with John Proctor because as an audience we can
see that he is vulnerable following his affair and that he is
surrounded by unstable people such as the Putnam's and Mary Warren.
Proctor gets trapped in the web created by the excitement and by the
hysteria of the community. The witch-craft naming's are governed by a
combination of state and religious power this was called a theocracy
(American government now based on the separation of powers, just like
our democracy. This is seen as safer than having the judge who
condemns you being the same person as your priest and law enforcement
officer). It would have been hard to avoid being able to see the
outcome of John Proctor as we get the intention from the early stages
of the play...