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The Crucible Essay Questions

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  1. 1

    The Crucible is popular as a political allegory, however what exactly is Miller trying to say? Who do you believe is being most criticized in the contemporary example?

    Miller was particularly offended by those who “called names” before HUAC, and he himself refused to do so. While the Crucible undoubtedly villainized the district attorneys and Court– those in the parallel positions of Joe McCarthy and HUAC– the play martyrs Corey and Proctor for refusing to do so. At the expenditure of their own lives, Corey and Proctor refused to condemn others, and in Miller’s eyes this is the only truly ethical decision.

  2. 2

    The Crucible features a considerable turnaround of social functions in the Salem community. Pick a character whose position of power is upended and examine the advancement of their role in the town and in the story. Can you make any observations about gender in this process?

    The witch trials significantly increased the power and agency of otherwise lowly women like Tituba and Abigail, while bringing down more respected community members like Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth. The position of males remained more stable– they were constantly in charge, and even if a few of them were executed for witchcraft they would always control the positions of highest authority.

  3. 3

    What is the role of gossip in the trials? How does Miller use gossip to implicate the whole town in cases of the witch trials?

    Plainly the trials are begun by the wagging of tongues after the ladies are found in the woods, but gossip definitely has a more enduring role. Track records in Salem are made or broken based on slander and report, and track record was a guy’s only defense against allegation– and even that often failed to remedy aspersions. But gossip likewise proves to be a harmful force even in the hands of the good and unwitting, taking on a life of its own– Giles Corey, for instance, condemns his own partner just by a slip of the tongue.

  4. 4

    Miller makes some considerable modifications to the historical occasions for the play– most significantly, he raises Abigail’s age from 11 to 19, and creates an affair between her and Proctor. What function does this serve?

    The affair is a dramatic device. It provides motive for Abigail’s allegation of Elizabeth, and complicates the relationship between the Proctors. By raising Abigail’s age and providing her motives of vengeance, Miller can make complex the characterization of what would otherwise be a tale-telling little girl, without jeopardizing her villainy.

  5. 5

    Plainly, Proctor is the protagonist of the play, controling 3 of the 4 acts. What starts as an ensemble making of the town’s drama ends in an examination of a decision by one male, the focus slowly narrowed throughout the play. How does Miller make this 17th century farmer into a character efficient in holding our interest and compassions for two hours?

    Proctor is developed as a “modern-day” figure in the play. He is resistant to authority, rebelling versus both the church and the state. He translucents humbug and screams it down. Moreover, he has a complex relationship with his better half, and is flawed however in a reasonable method. He is independent minded, and resists the conformity of Salem that is so like 1950s America. Simply put, he’s like every other hero rebel– the same guy in numerous films in stories, simply understood this time in 17th century Salem.

  6. 6

    What started the Salem witch trials? In their modern parallel of the red scare, we know that there actually were Communists. But in 17th century Salem, there was no real witchcraft. So how did this thing start, and what does Miller need to say about its origins?

    A significant point of the play is that the witch trials were not genuinely started by any event or scandal– the discovery of the women dancing in the woods was merely a tipping point, not the true origin. Miller is steadfast in his belief that the social structure of Salem is what caused the witch hunt and allowed it to accelerate. If it hadn’t been Betty Paris falling sick after dancing in the woods, it would have been something else.

  7. 7

    Act One is stressed by prose passages in which Miller information the background of Salem and the characters. Nevertheless, this background blends truths from the historic record with the modifications Miller made for remarkable reasons. What do you think of this?

    Since the prose passages are included within a fictionalized significant work, a reader ought to know that the passages are subject to the restrictions of the kind. However, Miller speaks to the voice of a historian in these passages, not with the voice of a playwright, and provides no indication that what he states is less than historic reality. Indeed, it is a somewhat uneasy concept– a play about a man who craved the truth is so free with its own truths.

  8. 8

    What is the function of Reverend Hale in the narrative?

    Reverend Hale is a fascinating and well-developed small character. He serves the remarkable function of an outsider, helping in exposition in the first act even as his presence catalyzes the witch trials. However in the 3rd act, he starts to question the trials, and by the fourth act has renounced them totally and is actively working versus them. Hale shows that the ministry and the courts need not all be evil, however that it is possible to realize the error of one’s own methods and work to fix their impacts.

  9. 9

    Mary Warren is a little a cipher– we see her only as a pawn of Abigail, and after that of Proctor, and then again of Abigail. Do we learn anything about the “genuine” Mary Warren?

    Mary Warren is an especially undeveloped character in the narrative, who operates mainly as a plot device. We understand that she is a weak-willed and frightened woman, who is easily manipulated by people more powerful than herself. Abigail and Proctor are the ones who control her, both threatening her with violence and vengeance, which draws a lucid connection in between those 2. Mary wants to be excellent, however she lacks the ability to see clearly where this good choice lies.

  10. 10

    Are the judges evil? Be sure to define what you suggest by “evil” in your response.

    This is a stealthily simple concern. Miller thought that the judges in the witch trials were purely wicked, and has mentioned that if he were to rewrite the play, he would make them less human and more obviously and completely wicked. But is wicked a function of the will, or a failure of reason? These males did not set out to do evil– they legally saw themselves as doing God’s work. Is it wicked to be incorrect? Arguably, the Putnams are the most evil characters in Miller’s analysis of the events, as they both support the trials and plainly know the falsity of the charges.

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