Many labels have actually been connected to The Crucible over the course of its life– catastrophe, allegory, political screed, historical fiction, even horror. However the historical nature of the play typically leads individuals to neglect its place in category fiction, as a dystopia.
The dystopia is a sub-genre of speculative fiction, originated from its more philosophical cousin, the paradise. Sir Thomas More created “utopia” in 1516 as a name for an ideal and difficult society. Pure utopias are unusual in contemporary fiction, except as a Shangri-la or Brigadoon looked for by characters from a non-utopian world. The substantially more popular category of dystopia overturns the initial concept by presenting worlds that either appear to be utopias but struggle with a deadly flaw (such as The Provider); worlds that are utopias to their inhabitants however unappealing to us (Brave New World); and worlds that are just plain horrible (1984, and lots of others).
Typically, a dystopia shares substantial tropes with sci-fi, employing sophisticated technology and post-disaster circumstances to create deep space in concern. But The Crucible is no less a dystopia for taking place in the past rather than the future, in a time of farmers and butter churns instead of zeppelins and thought control.
Arthur Miller was no stranger to loaning and adapting tropes from other categories of theater and fiction. His first hit, All My Boys, took its cue from the biologist design of Henrik Ibsen, and Death of A Salesperson obtained aspects from Yiddish theater and magic realism. The Crucible plays as a straight historical, like Shakespeare’s history plays, but the particular strangeness of the historic setting and the allegorical political argument being constructed lead The Crucible to share lots of elements of the dystopian narrative.
Salem itself features numerous qualities that are common of dystopian settings: rigorous social stratification, as in Brave New World; restricted sexuality and the melding of church and state, as in The Handmaid’s Tale; very little personal privacy and required conformity, as in 1984; and intrusive political apparatus, as in Fareneheit 451. However by virtue of having in fact existed, Salem itself can not be a correct dystopia, by definition. Rather, The Crucible is a dystopian story, making use of the tropes of the category to dramatize the real history of the Salem witch trials.
George Orwell’s 1984 is widely thought about the most influential and widely known dystopia, and as it was just recently released and popular when Miller was writing The Crucible, it serves as a fine example for comparing the structure of the play to the timeless dystopia.
In the first area, or Act One, of 1984 we are introduced to the world of Big Bro, establishing the particular rules of this universe. Act One of the Crucible is similar, revealing us the context of Salem and its occupants and how things work in their society. Act Two of 1984 has the protagonist, Winston Smith, beginning to realize that the world he lives in is unquestionably bad, and attempts to fight back against the system. Act 2 of the Crucible also reveals Proctor understanding how far the trials have gone, and preparing to stop the courts. Act 3 of 1984 brings Winston to O’Brien, and there is significant debate about the nature of his society. The Crucible’s 3rd act is the courtroom arguments about the validity of the trials and their proof. Finally, 1984 surfaces with the defeat of the hero and the bleak extension of the dystopia. Although in some dystopias the hero prospers in bringing down the system or escaping from his society, The Crucible is like 1984 because its hero is also ultimately helpless in the face of the state, and is carried out.
Aside from the structural resemblance, The Crucible likewise shares characterization tropes with the dystopia genre. Like John Proctor, the hero of a dystopia is almost usually a member of the society in concern, usually fairly high in social standing, who instinctively comprehends that something is incorrect with the world. He is generally a lone voice of factor, expressing the audience’s viewpoint of the world in concern. His rebellion often comes at great personal threat.
Furthermore, a dystopia isn’t merely entertainment. The point is to reveal the connection to the world the author presently resides in, to exaggerate existing social and political flaws and show the damage they can do when required to their rational extreme. Arthur Miller does just that– by framing 1692 Salem as a dystopia, he makes an even stronger case about the present day. Not just can political injustice and “calling names” lead to a dystopia-like environment– they have, in the real and not so distant past, in this really nation. For that is the true point of the Crucible, to reveal just what depths society can, now and in our past and in our future.