Themes of "The Crucible"

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Arthur Miller enriches the reader's experience of "The Crucible" by strategically portraying various themes throughout the play. Miller's themes include social drama, personal tragedy, hysteria, superstition, greed and vengeance, authority and judgment, theocracy, justice, historical drama, and fear of the unknown. The theme of social drama is a direct result from the time period that Miller wrote "The Crucible". The play was written during the Red Scare, when Americans were in fear of a Russian takeover of the United States of America. This is reflected in "The Crucible," because the people in the play are in fear of some entity, the entity being witchcraft and not communism. "The Salem tragedy, which is about to begin in these pages, developed from a paradox. It is a paradox in whose grip we still live, and there is no prospect yet that we will discover its revolution. Simply, it was this: for good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies. It was forged for a necessary purpose and accomplished that purpose. But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space. Evidently, the time came in New England when the repressions of order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized. The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom (pgs. 6- 7)." The theme of personal tragedy exists today as it did during the period when Miller wrote the play. Today, personal tragedy can be the loss of a loved one or even a couple decides to go its separate routes in life. However, in "The Crucible," personal tragedy is best personified with John Proctor. Proctor is the main protagonist of the play and he is well suited for the part. He was devoid of his freedom, privacy, and life. Act four symbolizes the final decline of Proctor's social status when he is accused of walking with Lucifer and later confessing to it. He was accused of being a wizard after it was stated by Putnam that he was trying to overthrow the court, with a deposition signed by Mary Warren stating that the afflicted girls were frauds. As a result of this accusation, Proctor would only be spared if he would confess to the accusation. Proctor did confess but later ripped up a signed confession, citing that God had hear his confession and seen his name on the confession (pgs. 142-143). Hysteria is the basis of the play. The people of Salem are scared, they are paranoid. Will they be accused and even convicted of compacting with the Devil? The trials pit neighbor against neighbor, sometimes for financial and social gain or even out of pure hatred for Goody Doe up the street. Hysteria is easily depicted in the early stages of the play, when the afflicted girls call out the names of others they claim to have seen with the Devil. "Betty, staring too: 'I saw George Jacobs with the Devil! I saw Goody Howe with the Devil.' Abigail: 'I saw Good Hawkins with the Devil!' Betty: "I saw Goody Bibber with the Devil!" Abigail: "I saw Goody Booth with the Devil!'" Again, hysteria is depicted on page 130: Hale to Danforth, "Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlot's cry will end his life--and you wonder yet if rebellion's spoke?" The Puritans did not use science or logic, they relied on God and his book. Without science, they explained natural occurrences, like rain, by saying that God was angry and was trying to wash away the sins of humanity. Thus, the Puritans were very superstitious. Witches never existed, however their superstitious belief in witchcraft and the Devil led them to think otherwise. For example, the town beggar asks for food from Farmer Brown. Framer Brown is a very religious, hard-working, family-man, and he is not about the relinquish a portion of his hard-earned food to this feeble beggar. As he politely turns away, the beggar mumbles an obscenity. Upon closing the door to his cabin on the beggar, Farmer Brown's young son falls down and breaks a bone. Immediately, the old beggar is to blame, superstition points everything in the beggar's direction. She was hungry, asked for a donation from Farmer Brown and she is turned away. Being a little upset by Farmer Brown's actions, she tells him to do something to himself. Following that, Farmer Brown's son is injured and he places the blame on the old beggar, claiming that she placed a hex on Brown's family. Brown takes his problem up with the court, the beggar is convicted and she is hung. The previous example shows how superstition influenced the lives of a Puritan family. The theme of superstition in depicted in "The Crucible" on pages 76 and 77, when Elizabeth Proctor is accused of being a witch: "Abigail were stabbed tonight; a needle were found stuck into her belly...[Elizabeth]...And she charges me? (A poppet was found in her house with a needle in the stomach, however Mary Warren claimed that it was in there for safe keeping after she sown the poppet for Elizabeth)?" During the witch trials, a few characters were damming people left and right for their own profit, sometimes for revenge. Thomas Putnam and Reverend Parris are among the notorious few who were motivated by greed and revenge. Although it was not stated directly that Parris was looking for money and land, a few of his conversations lead the reader to the conclusion that Parris was a "televangelist" of sorts. During the play, it was evident that Parris was concerned more with his reputation and obtaining the deed to the meeting house. "Not long after the fever died, Parris was voted from office, walked out on the highroad and was never heard from again," page 146. The previous statement mentions the downfall of Parris. It means that once the hype over the witch trials died out, the people of Salem finally rid themselves of the corrupt Reverend Parris, who was selfish and cared nothing about the people. Putnam was motivated by his quest for more acreage. During the trial of one George Jacobs, Jacobs first mentioned how much land he owned (film version). The same thing went for John Proctor and one point during the trials, when he mentioned to the court that he owned 300 acres of land. Abigail Williams is the embodiment of revenge. She was in love with John Proctor, but she didn't feel the same way for his wife. Consequently, Elizabeth Proctor was charged as being a witch, although she would be spared until she bore her baby. The theme of judgment and authority revolves around the Puritans' belief in theocracy. In "The Crucible," the court held power which was influenced by the church, unlike modern society in which there is a separation of church and state. The court in the play allowed spectral evidence, which could be proven or disproved by a religious event or person. The main example of theocracy, is the fact that the courts held trials regarding witchcraft, which has its roots with the Devil and Hell. In fact, the whole play revolves around theocracy and this theme of judgment and authority, it was about witchcraft and witchcraft trials. However, there were key individuals that made this system effective, effective in this instance by putting followers of the Devil to death. The first key individual was Judge Danforth. Danforth lead the high court of Salem and decided the fate of 18 Salemites. Danforth could be described as a tough, yet fair judge during these trials. The other key individuals were Cheever and Hathorne, who also helped decide whether the accused was innocent or guilty, although they did not possess as much power as Danforth. The theme of justice is very evident throughout the play, since Miller dedicated the entire third act to a court room drama. Justice is the play is not fair, considering that Danforth didn't believe Proctor's word that the girls were faking their ailments. Justice also seemed to be influenced by the public's opinion, if someone of a lower class was accused and not well liked among the other classes, then they would be convicted and put to death. One of the main characters that publicly stated his opinion on justice and the court system was Reverend Hale. When he witnessed the corruption of the court and realized that the entire proceedings was a big life, Hale declared his departure from the court of Salem. "I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!" What also showed the corruption of the court, was how Hathorne conducted his investigations. Hathorne scared confessions out the defendants, because he would get in their face and yell at them, sometimes forcing the defendant into tears. This is most evident in the film version of "The Crucible," because the actions of Hathorne and the other magistrates is easier visualized. "The Crucible" was also written on the principles of historical drama. It tells of a time when the principles of our society where in the

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