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The Stream of Conscience in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible Anonymous


In Arthur Miller’s effective stage play The Crucible, written in 1953 as a metaphor for the McCarthy hearings on communism in America, the idea of conscience is considerably highlighted in a lot of the main characters. Miller himself as soon as said that The Crucible concentrates on “the conflict in between male’s raw deeds and whether conscience remains in truth an organic part of the person or merely an accessory of the state or mores of the time” (Bloom 146).

In this play, conscience appears to be based upon Christian principles, particularly the ideas of morality, the confession of one’s sins and the guilt and penance for these sins. At the start of the play, conscience, as an issue of morality, is specified really plainly, for Reverend Parris, “gullible, uncaring, and atrocious who cares more about his reputation than fact” (Paton 67), specifies “a minister is the Lord’s male in the parish … not to be so gently crossed and opposed” (Act 1, Scene 1). Hence, this establishes that theologically, a minister is the supreme decider of morality in the parish of Salem, Massachusetts, where all of the action of The Crucible takes place. The church, in such a theocratic neighborhood, defines conscience; right and wrong is decided by this authority in conjunction with specific religious teachings.

As a helpful note, Michelle Pearson informs us that “For higher functions, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a mix of state and spiritual power whose function was to keep the neighborhood together and avoid any sort of disunity … grounded on the idea of exclusion and restriction” (184 ), which obviously reveals that the time came throughout the Salem witch trials when the repression of order was heavier than appeared necessitated by the risks against which the order was arranged.

With Salem being a location where the conscience of the people was strictly governed by this theocracy, the social atmosphere of the parish was genuinely repressive. However at the start of The Crucible, it is obvious that individuals had actually currently begun to feel the pressures of this repression. Abigail Williams, an extremely stunning, orphaned lady who lives with her uncle, the Reverend Parris, states to John Proctor, a farmer who functions as “a prime example of a sinner who is able to accept and confess of his sins in order to do excellent” (Pearson 192), “I never ever understood what pretense Salem was, I never ever understood the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian ladies” (Act 1, Scene 2). Like so lots of others in Salem, Abigail is rather aware of the hypocrisy emerging from the rigorous repression of theocracy, and has actually begun to rebel versus it. When the girls dance naked in the woods and cast spells, an act strictly forbidden by theocratic law, Abigail instantly uses this as a method to “work herself around the conscience of the church and all its constraints and develop her own idea of what is best and what is wrong” (Decter 204). But Abigail is not the only character in The Crucible that is guilty of utilizing the witch hunt as a method to cultivate individual interests, for Putnam uses the trials as a way to acquire land, thus controling the typical limiting mores of Salem to produce his own conception of conscience.

With all this, a new conscience has actually progressed in The Crucible, stemming from the trials in which “the societal balance was turned towards greater individual liberty” (Paton 146). Preferably, the community of Salem has turned from a strict, repressive conscience to one where individual gain and “typical vengeance composes the laws” (Blossom 170). The church has lost its mighty power and as Mr. Hale so eloquently explains “The insane children” are now “jangling the secrets of the kingdom.”

As Arthur Miller declares, the character of John Proctor was greatly comforting, for as a sinner “he might reverse his paralyzing personal regret and become the most forthright voice against the madness around him” and show that “a clear ethical outcry could still spring even from an ambiguously unblemished soul” (160 ). This “individual guilt” is related to Proctor’s affair with Abigail Williams which significantly impacts his own conscience, for he is “a sinner, not just against the moral style however likewise his own inner vision of decent conduct” (Decter 168) as manifested in the theology of Salem. Proctor’s conscience difficulties him throughout the play and rises in his relationships with other characters, for he conceives of himself as a sinner, due to his deeds connected with his infidelity.

However the courts in Salem are bent on ridding the parish of evil by inflicting its morality upon the people. As Judge Danforth exclaims, “No uncorrupted guy may fear this court” (Act 3, Scene 2), which emphasizes the truth that the court is the embodiment of morality in Salem. And it is here that the question of whether conscience is organic to the human being as postured by Miller concerns the forefront, for the courts exist, in part, to supply conscience and morality, based upon the assumption that conscience is not part of man however ordained by God and that the laws of the church are needed to provide this conscience in order to distinguish between good and evil for the meaningless human.

For that reason, the courts require that all those accused and condemned of practicing witchcraft should confess or be hung at the gallows. With this, conscience has been handed over to the state which takes the place of God and decides on matters of right and incorrect. As an act of compliance, confession develops the courts and those who preserve them as the ultimate symbols of authority and power on earth. As an outcome, when conscience is handed over to the state, repression takes place and in some cases causes individual and social disasters.

The Salem witch trials, as conceived by Paton, thus ended up being “a chance for everybody to openly express their regret or sins under the cover of allegations versus the victims” (256 ). In assistance of this, Arthur Miller mentions “individuals of Salem had no ritual for the getting rid of sin” (162 ); confession, then, in the case of the courts, satisfies of getting rid of regret while under the umbrella of hypocrisy. John Proctor, the “point of moral reference versus which all the action in The Crucible is gauged” (Pearson 210), faces his own morality when he admits his adulterous affair to his other half Elizabeth. Initially, Proctor thinks it is Elizabeth who is evaluating him, and his confession puts her in a state of power, replacing God and the courts as the figures of morality and conscience which has been turned over to her.

Maybe this is the reason why Proctor later declines, together with Rebecca Nurse, the old, dedicated woman, kind, strong-willed and sensible, to incorrectly admit being in league with the Devil. Yet both of these characters understand that their conscience will never permit them to live a normal life, and Proctor winds up serving his own conscience instead of that of the courts and pays the ultimate rate, being death. In conclusion, Arthur Miller established that conscience is indeed an organic part of the human, and that for all intents and functions, the natural conscience is the truest kind as compared to the courts and the church, repressive, shallow and loaded with hypocrisy.


Flower, Harold. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. New York City: Chelsea Home Publishers, 1996.

Decter, Midge. “The Witches of Arthur Miller.” Commentary. Vol. 103 no. 3 (1997 ): 54-56.

Miller, Arthur. “Why I Wrote The Crucible: An Artist’s Response to Politics. New Yorker. October 21 & & 25, 1953: 158-64.

Paton, Alan and Denis M. Calandra. Notes on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.

Pearson, Michelle. “John Proctor and the Crucible of Individuation in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Studies in American Drama. Vol. 6 no. 1 (1991 ): 15-27.

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