Essay, Research Paper: Arthur Miller And Crucible

Literature: Arthur Miller

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Arthur Miller was an American playwright who was born in 1915. He grew up in New
York to a Jewish family. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1938
where he began to distinguish himself as a playwright. His first plays were
Honors at Dawn (1936) and No Villain (1937) which won the University of Michigan
Hopwood Awards. His Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer prize in 1949. Miller
wrote The Crucible in 1953 during the McCarthy period when Americans were
accusing each other of Pro-Communist beliefs. Many of Miller's friends were
being attacked as communists and in 1956, Miller himself was brought before the
House of Un-American Activities Committee where he was found guilty of beliefs
in communism. The verdict was reversed in 1957 in an appeals court. Miller
married Marylin Monroe in 1956 but divorced her in 1961. The Crucible is set
against the backdrop of the mad witch hunts of the Salem witch trials in the
late 17th century. It is about a town, after accusations from a few girls, which
begins a mad hunt for witches that did not exist. Many townspeople were hanged
on charges of witchcraft. Miller brings out the absurdity of the incident with
the theme of truth and righteousness. The theme is conveyed through the
struggles of Miller's main character, John Proctor. Summary Act one begins with
Reverend Parris praying over her daughter, Betty Parris, who lies unconscious on
her bed. Through conversations between Reverend Parris and his niece Abigail
Williams, and between several girls, the audience learns that these girls,
including Abigail and Betty, were engaged in occultic activities in the forest
lead by Tituba, Parris' slave from Barbados. Parris caught them and jumped from
a bush startling the girls. Betty fainted and had not recovered. During this
session, Abigail drank chicken blood to kill Elizabeth Proctor. She tells the
girls that she will kill anyone who mutters a word about what happened. The
townspeople do not know exactly what the girls were doing but there are rumors
of witchcraft. John Proctor enters the room where Betty lies faint. Abigail is
still in there and she tries to seduce him. Proctor is a farmer who has had an
affair with Abigail a while ago, but now he wants to forget it. Reverend John
Hale is summoned to look upon Betty and the research the incident. He is an
expert in occultic phenomena and he is eager to show his knowledge. He questions
Abigail who accuses Tituba as being a witch. Tituba, afraid of being hanged,
confesses faith in God and accuses Goody Good and Goody Osborne of witchcraft.
Abigail and Betty, who has woken up, claim to have been bewitched and confess
faith in God. They name several other people whom they claim they saw with the
Devil. Act two begins eight days after the discussion at Parris' house. Between
act one and act two, Deputy Governor Dansforth came to Salem to oversee the
court proceedings. Fourteen people have been arrested for witchcraft, and there
is talk of hanging. Elizabeth Proctor asks John to go to the court and testify
against Abigail and the other girls. John doesn't want to get involved. There is
tension between Elizabeth and John since Elizabeth has not forgiven John for the
affair. Marry Warren enters. She was in court testifying against the
townspeople. She gives Elizabeth a doll which she has made in court. In the
middle of their discussion, Hale enters to question John and Elizabeth,
suspicious of witchcraft. Later, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse enter to seek
advice after both their wives had been arrested. Next, the marshal arrives with
a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Elizabeth was accused by Abigail for stabbing
Abigail with a needle through a doll. John Proctor protests but Elizabeth is
taken away in chains. Proctor demands Mary that she goes to court and testify
against the girls. He vows that he will fight the proceedings, even if it means
confessing his own adultery. Act three takes place in court. Francis Nurse,
Giles Corey, and John Proctor present their case against the girls to Deputy
Governor Dansforth and Judge Hathorne. Proctor presents a petition signed by 91
people testifying to the good character of their wives, and Dansforth issues
warrants for the questioning of all of them. Corey charges Putnam on inciting
his daughter to accuse Corey of witchcraft in order get his land. Corey has a
witness but will not name him for fear of getting the man arrested. Corey is
arrested because of contempt of the court. Proctor presents his case and a
deposition by Mary Warren saying that she never saw the devil or any spirits.
Abigail says that Mary is lying and she and the girls pretend to be bewitched by
Mary. Proctor, frustrated at the gullibility of the court, grabs Abigail by the
hair and exclaims to everyone that she is a whore confessing that he had an
affair with Abigail. Elizabeth is brought in to be questioned about whether this
is true. Elizabeth tells the court that John Proctor never had an affair with
Abigail in order to save his name, however, this destroys Proctor's testimony.
Mary crumbles under the peer pressure and returns to Abigail's side, accusing
Proctor of being a witch. The girls pretend to be bewitched by Proctor. Proctor
accuses Danforth of being afraid to reveal the truth. Dansforth acts more to
keep the reputation of the court rather than for justice. Reverend Hale now sees
the evil in the court and denounces the proceedings. Proctor is arrested. Act
four begins in prison where Sarah Good and Tituba wait to be hanged. They have
gone insane and believe that Satan will take them both to Barbados. There is
rumors of an uprising in a nearby town due to similar witch trials. The
townspeople are afraid of a similar riot in Salem. Hale and Parris are now
terrified. They go to visit the innocent people in the jail and beg them to make
false confessions in order to save their lives. Hale believes that the blood of
the people who are being hanged is on his hands. He asks Elizabeth, who is now
pregnant, to tell John to confess to save his life but Elizabeth will not. While
Elizabeth is talking to John, she tells him that she has forgiven him of his
affair and tells his that he can do as he will. John Proctor confesses that he
is a witch, but will not say the others are. After a few moments, Proctor is fed
up with the court, tears up his confession, and goes out to be hanged with
Rebecca Nurse. Hales pleads that Elizabeth ask Proctor to confess, but she says,
"He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!" Plot In The
Crucible all the event flow naturally from one event to the next. Everything
happens naturally from the natures of the characters. The fact that the story
isn't contrived, and even more that it is based on a true story is interesting.
The result is so unbelievable. The incident begins with the girls dancing in the
forest and snowballs into a huge witch hunt. The plot was exciting. There was
sufficient conflict to keep my interest aroused. There are a lot of tension and
suspense in the story. It covers basic human instincts and qualities. It shows
the human necessity for survival, and the lengths at which a person will go to
save his life. There is the idea of honor and truth. Proctor tries to keep his
reputation but gives it up to reveal the truth. Through his struggle he achieves
righteousness. All these things keep the plot moving. Proctor's relationship
with Elizabeth can be seen to grow and mature. He continually grows more pure in
Elizabeth's sight until she is able to forgive him in act four. Proctor'
character also improves. He doesn't want to get involved in the court
proceedings in act two but stands up for the truth in act four. Characters Each
character has his own distinct quality. Most characters are distinctly good or
evil though few characters are really developed. The reader is only able to see
one side of each character. Even John Proctor, the main character isn't as
developed as it could be. This is probably due to the restrictions of time and
narration of this particular genre. Parris - A minister in Salem who is more
worried about his own reputation than the town or the truth. Betty - Parris'
daughter. She is faint in the beginning of the play and later accuses various
people for witchcraft. Abigail - Parris' niece and Proctor's mistress. She is
the leader of the girls who accuses people of witchcraft during the trial.
Tituba - Parris' slave from Barbados. She is the first accused with being
accused by Abigail. Mrs. Putnam - Wife of Thomas Putnam. She first plants the
idea of Betty being bewitched. Ruth - Daughter of the Putnams. She is one of
Abigail's friends who accuses people at the trial. Mercy Lewis - Putnams'
servant. She is also involved in the accusations of the witches. John Proctor -
Main character. He is a good man, but has committed adultery with Abigail.
Elizabeth Proctor - John Proctor's wife. She is an upright woman who is accused
of being a witch. She couldn't forgive Proctor for adultery until just before he
died. Mary Warren - Proctor's servant. She is one of Abigail's friends and
plants evidence on Elizabeth. Reverend Hale - Self proclaimed expert on
witchcraft. He is a minister who at first believes the girls accusations but
eventually sees the evil in the court. Deputy Governor Dansforth - Deputy
Governor of Massachusetts who believes the testimony of the girls despite
evidence to the contrary. He works more to keep the reputation of the court than
to seek justice. Judge Hathorne - Judge presiding over the witch trials. Rebecca
Nurse - Respected, upright wife of Francis nurse. She is accused of witchcraft.
Francis Nurse - Rebecca's Husband. He had land disputes with the Putnams. Giles
Corey - Old cranky villager who accidentally causes his wife to be accused.
Sarah Good - She is an accused witch who becomes insane while awaiting her
hanging. Susanna - One of Abigail's friends who takes part in accusing the
villagers. Cheever - He arrests the witches. Herrick - Also arrests the witches.
Is the jail keeping. Hopkins - Messenger. Setting The play takes place in Salem,
Massachusetts during the 17 century. Since this story is based on a true story,
the setting is real. The fact that the story takes place during the 17 century
is important. The community needed to be superstitious and gullible in order for
this incident to actually happen. Also, the event needed to be in a Puritan
society to have such an aversion to witches. People in the twentieth and even
the nineteenth centuries would be too skeptical about the supernatural to
believe the girls. Also, they would be likely to dismiss the act of dancing in
the forest as just a little game. Style Miller's style is very simple. He uses
simple sentences and words which are easy to understand. He brings out the evil
quality of Abigail and the other girls and also the gullibility of the judges.
His style is easy to understand and should be in order to be successful as a
play. While using the simple style, Miller doesn't take anything away from the
suspense in the plot. The dialogues of his character are like actual speech. His
words are used effectively and doesn't include anything not necessary for making
a good play. Many clever figurative devices are used. For example, Abigail says
that John "sweated like a stallion." The writing is really that
memorable since it was not really written as prose or poetry. However, certain
images as the one previously mentioned are hard to forget. Theme The theme of
the story was rising over adversity, and standing for the truth even to death.
This is the theme for many stories and is always an exciting one. John, in the
beginning, wanted to keep distant from the trials. He did not want to have a
part, whether good or bad. When Elizabeth was arrested, he was forced to become
part of it. He went to court first to set his wife free but after watching the
proceedings, he saw that the evil was not only being done to his own wife but
many others like his wife. As a result, he worked even harder to free the other
innocent people, getting himself arrested. Despite this drawback, he did not
give up. He had the chance to free himself if he testified against the others
but he realized that this would be wrong, and even though he wanted to free
himself, he would not if it meant bringing trouble upon others. He cleansed
himself at the trial, standing for what he knew was right and died a righteous
person. Though he stayed away from church, he became more pure than the common
Puritans, dying as a martyr like the original apostles. He learned what truth
meant through his suffering. Through Proctor's struggle, Miller displays the
struggles within each of our own hearts. Many times we have witnessed some wrong
happening to some other person and wished not to get involved. However,
sometimes, like Proctor, there might be something that forces us in. Would we be
quit after only saving our wife like Proctor could have done, or would we go for
the entire community as Proctor did? Conclusion The story reminds its readers of
an ugly blemish on human history. It reminds us that man is not perfect, and
that we can make mistakes. However, even with these mistakes, we can cleanse
ourselves and purify ourselves by making what is wrong right. The sufferings
become to the sufferer like a crucible.
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