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Why Did Arthur Miller Call His Play “The Crucible”?

This modern play was written in the 1950s by the author Arthur Miller. It is set in Salem, Massachusetts in North America. The story is about a town overcome by the superstition of witches. A Crucible is also a piece of equipment used in science. This piece of apparatus is used to separate the metal purities from the impurities. Salem is like a crucible in science because, in the play, it separates the pure characters from the impure characters. Miller uses the name Crucible as a metaphor. Miller wrote this play because of what was going on in his time. He linked his emotions to the Salem Witch Trials. In his time America was at war with Russia and was frightened of each other’s nuclear capabilities. America was a capitalist country and Russia was a Communist country along with China.

America was frightened of communism. Senator Joseph McCarthy was appointed as chairman of the House of Un-American Activities Committee to try and prevent communism from spreading in America. He began to accuse many people of having left-wing views along with many people accusing others. Miller was a liberal and was accused of being a communist because of his left-wing views. He was furious at this and was reminded of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. He decided to write ‘The Crucible’ to convey the stupidity of the anti-communist hysteria. Miller wanted us to think about the stupid accusations during The Witch Trials and think that innocent people died for nothing but just for revenge or jealousy.

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The moral of the story is to not prejudge people or support something because a majority of people already supporting it. I think we did see the play as Miller Wanted us to because we (the readers) did feel for the innocent characters and we did understand that what was going on was wrong. I think that Miller didn’t want us to agree with any of McCarthy’s views because he made McCarthy look bad and you could maybe compare him with Hitler and other people who hurt other people for no reason except prejudice. In the play, Salem is the Crucible (in the scientific sense) and the characters are the substances. The Crucible is supposed to separate the pure from the impure substances, so in Salem, this separates the pure characters from the impure characters.

This also links with McCarthyism because, in Miller’s time, people were separated into pure and impure characters in which the pure characters were people that stood up for their own view and the impure who went with the majority of people. A text I think is alike with this, according to the moral of the story is ‘Romeo and Juliet’. In both texts people were separated into ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ characters e.g. the parents of Romeo and Juliet are impure because they keep fighting with each other for no reason apart from their reputation. Also, Romeo and Juliet are the pure characters throughout the play because they still stood up for what they believed in even though their families were rivals.

Some characters start off at the beginning being pure but at the end they are impure. One character that depicts this is Abigail. She was seen as pure at the beginning because she is shown being an innocent young girl that was used by John Proctor. Later on, I thought she was impure because of what she did to get revenge on Goody Proctor because of her jealousy and because Proctor chose his wife over her. Miller makes Abigail say stuff like ‘I will never hurt Betty’ and ‘Now Betty, dear’. This shows her character as being caring and innocent and like she only wants to do things that are right and doesn’t want to do anything the bible forbids. However, she seems to be innocent but she isn’t because she still slept with a married man. Miller makes us prejudge her and we get it wrong. Also, Miller makes us look no better than McCarthy.

Near the end of the play, Miller makes Abigail an impure character by making her say similar quotes like ‘Why do you come yellow bird’ and ‘My face? My face?’ This shows the stunts she is pulling off to hurt people and the accusations she is putting forward to hurt John Proctor. Another example of a character that starts off being pure and ends being impure is Reverend Parris. In the beginning, he is shown being a good minister and being very religious. We know this because the text states, as a stage direction ‘Reverend Parris is praying now’ and also he says “I cannot go before the congregation”. This shows him being religious and also caring about his daughter, Betty by saying ‘Why can she not move’ and he also says ‘Oh, pray not!’ This shows him being caring and like he doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

In the end, he is shown to be impure by him being greedy and selfish. We know this because he says ‘There is a danger for me!’ This makes the reader not like him because he is selfish and only really cares about himself. At the end of the play I thought Abigail and Parris were very alike because both only cared for themselves and both didn’t care for anyone and were only out to hurt people. I think most people would agree with this statement because Miller makes us think in this way by making Abigail and Parris say the quotes as stated above. Miller might have made us like these characters at the beginning because he might have wanted a twist in the ending.

Miller might have wanted Abigail and Parris to say the things that they did because he might have wanted us to know the true character. Also, he might have wanted us to feel empathy for the characters they hurt. A quote that really sums up Abigail is when Abigail is talking about Goody Proctor she says ‘She hates me, Uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bitter woman, a lying cold snivelling, woman’. This shows that she wants Parris to feel sorry for her but Abigail is actually in the wrong here. This also shows her being clever and she knows how to deceive people. This means that Abigail is different from the other impure characters because she knows what she is doing and she knows she is wrong and means.

A quote that really sums up Parris is he says ”Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house-a dagger clattered to the ground. You cannot hang this sort. There is a danger for me. I dare not step outside at night”. This shows his character being selfish as he doesn’t want to hang someone but only because he thinks there is a danger for him and this shows him as a different character from the beginning. Like before but opposite, some characters appear to be ‘immoral’ at the beginning and ‘virtuous’ at the end. A character that describes this is the main character, John Proctor. In the beginning, John Proctor is shown to be impure because he ‘dumped’ Abigail who is shown to be an innocent young girl. So the reader’s first perception of John Proctor is not ‘good’.

This character is untrustworthy because he had an affair and he committed the greatest sin, adultery. We disliked him because of what he said to Abigail, which was ‘Child-‘ ‘How dare you to call me child!’ and Proctor says “Abby I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again”. This shows the aggressive side of Proctor. Miller might have done this to make us prejudge Proctor and later on make us find out that we are wrong. Also, he is shown to be impure by calling Abigail a child because she wasn’t too young for him to have an affair with. I think this is very ironic because how could he call her a child after sleeping with her.

Another character that is shown to be impure at the beginning is Giles Corey. He is shown to be impure at the beginning by saying ‘He cannot be crossed, John Proctor I have only lasted four-pound damages’. This shows him being a tell-teller and he enjoys prosecuting people. Near the end they both prove themselves to be pure. Proctor proves himself to be pure by admitting the adultery by saying ‘I have known her’. This shows John Proctor being pure, but also showing that he is desperate and made a big sacrifice by admitting the greatest sin to save his wife and friends. This was a jump in tension and the effect it has on the reader is big because it is a big part of the story and this separates the pure from the impure overall.

Giles is shown to be pure at the end by dying a hero’s death. We know this because when Elizabeth (Goody Proctor) tells John about what happened she says ‘They say give them but two words. ‘More weight’ he says’. This shows him being pure by not saying anything but ‘More weight’ when rocks are crushing him. This shows that he would do anything to save his friends and this also shows him as a noble character. I felt admiration for the characters and I felt sorry for them dying for no reason and died as a hero. At the end of the play, it made me feel this way, firstly when Elizabeth told Proctor about Giles’ death and right at the end when Proctor gets hanged. I think the majority of people should agree with this because they would have admiration for the characters because of how they died. A quote that supports this is the stage direction ‘the final drum roll crashes, then heightens violently. Hale weeps in frantic prayer’.

This shows the climax of the death of Proctor and the feelings of everyone else. For example ‘Hale weeps in frantic prayer’. This shows that Hale is distraught and he is praying for him. Also, words in that quote are very powerful e.g. ‘drum roll crashes’ and ‘heightens violently’. This shows Proctor’s death as horrific and like a hero’s death. The effects these words have on the audience are that they feel more upset and feel more sympathy for Proctor. Miller makes us dislike the characters by bringing out the bad side of both characters. Also when he wants us to like the characters he makes them say something that we like and that we will react to in a good way.

Miller made the characters say things that they did because he wanted us to know the good and bad sides to the character so we know the characters properly. This also has an effect on the audience. I think that the effect on the audience is that they feel empathy towards the good side of the character and also this might show what Miller went through in his time when he got accused and his point of view during his time. I think that Proctor is supposed to be a pure character because he is shown to be honest, stands up for what he believes and also he didn’t go with the majority and he is shown to be independent. On the other hand, he did have bad times, for example, the affair, but I think Miller made Proctor, out of all the characters, do it because he has the characteristics to handle it and admit it when he is wrong.

I think that Giles is in between pure and impure because isn’t mentioned much so I can’t tell properly because he had good points and he had bad points, which equalled out. But overall I think he is more of a pure character than an impure character because he is shown to be silly at the beginning and brave at the end. A quote that really sums up Proctor is Elizabeth says ‘You’ll take my sins upon you, John-‘ then Proctor says ‘No, I take my own, my own!’ This suits him best because it shows his anger by the exclamation mark (loud voice) and it shows his independence and pride at the same time. A quote that sums up Giles is ‘I will not give any name. I mentioned my wife’s name once and I’ll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute’.

This doesn’t show him as a tell-teller but it does show him as a kind of hero by him ready to get hurt just for not giving names. This also explains why I think he is more pure than impure. I think Miller made the characters change from pure to impure or vice versa because he might be playing with our minds or maybe he might have made us wrong when we prejudge people and this might be a message to us as well. I think the characters didn’t change, I think it was our perception of the characters that changed. I think this because Miller might have shown the impure side at the beginning and the pure side at the end or vice versa.

I think that Miller was trying to tell us that when you accuse or prejudge someone you might be wrong and people do show how they really are. For example at the beginning someone says about Proctor ‘He is a sinner’ which he was but later he admitted it and he showed his purities. Also, Parris is a respected person in the play because he is the minister but later he shows that he is really selfish and greedy. I think Miller was successful because I got the message and understood it. Also how he twisted the middle was good because the reader should start to get a different perception of the characters because this was the message Miller was trying to put across (i.e. don’t prejudge people because you might be wrong).

In addition, he built up the tension well and this helped to get the message across. He built-up tension in the court when Abigail was ‘pretending’ that Mary Warren was sending out evil spirits. This also had an effect on the audience because they were getting a better view about how Abigail is really like and this is when the reader starts to get a better perception of Proctor because this is when he admits his sin. I did feel something bad was going to happen in the end because after Proctor signed the paper it was almost inevitable that something bad was going to happen to him. I knew this because Miller made Proctor say religious words for example Proctor used the word ‘God’ a lot of times. This might mean that he thinks that he is going to die because he knows that he has gone against one of the commandments and so he knows that God will punish him.

Also after that Proctor starts to talk about his ‘name’ and how this confession was going to ruin his reputation. Proctor also said sentences like ‘I am no Sarah Good or Tituba, I am John Proctor!’ and he used sentences like ‘ I have three children-how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?’ These show that he is asking how he can teach his children to walk like men in the world (this means that how can he teach his children to walk with pride in the world) and stand up for themselves when he didn’t help his friends, this shows how much his self-respect means to him. From this, you can tell something was going to happen because Proctor was too strong to give his name away like that, so the other option was to get hanged.

My feelings changed throughout the ply by characters showing their true characteristics, so I didn’t know what to feel if someone died because at the beginning they might have deserved it but at the end they might not have deserved it or vice versa. Characters said things like ‘we come not for your life’ because Miller doesn’t want to make the play straight forward or simple e.g. if he just wrote ‘ we are not here to kill you  ‘ then it wouldn’t have the effect on the reader as much as the first sentence had because the first one is more formal and old fashioned. This shows that Miller wanted the play not to be as straightforward and predictable, he wanted to add mystery to it. Miller makes characters refer to the bible because this helps the reader to understand the setting and the time it was written in: people were religious and believed in God and strict Christians forbade dancing! All the characters had Christian names.

This might have been because he was trying to send the message out to the reader so they know the characters are very religious and their parents were as well. Miller’s use of language conveys the ideas he is trying to by using words that relate to the idea e.g. if the idea is the religion he uses words like ‘God or if it is death he uses words like ‘hell’ and ‘damn’. I think the play did end as I expected because I knew Proctor was going to die. I could tell because of the type of character he is (aggressive, independent etc.) and because he is full of pride he doesn’t want to give away his reputation that easily. This links to the why Miller called his play ‘The Crucible’ because all the pure people died and only a few survived and this left Salem (crucible in science) full of impurities.

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Why Did Arthur Miller Call His Play "The Crucible"?. (2021, Apr 11). Retrieved May 9, 2021, from https://essayscollector.com/essays/why-did-arthur-miller-call-his-play-the-crucible/