Motivation of “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
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“John Proctor: I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem– vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance! (Miller, 379)”. This quote by John Proctor was spoken in response to one of the many motives in the Salem witch trails in The Crucible. The witch trials were seen by some as an opportunity to obtain personal gain through accusing others of witchcraft. There were many motivational goals for the characters in The Crucible such as, sexual, political, and financial.
The character, in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, who holds a sexually motivated goal for accusing others, is Abigail Williams. When Abigail is the Proctors’ housekeeper, she and John Proctor commit adultery before the Salem witch trails. John, however, feels guilty of his crime and sees through Abigail’s methods to kill his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, by accusing her (From Page to Stage). Abigail and the other girls fake being bewitched to convince others of the witchcraft’s validity of the accused (Scheidt, 11). The other people being accused of witch craft only strengthened her chances of winning support for accusing Elizabeth Proctor.
Her main goal is to eradicate Elizabeth Proctor and to gain back John’s “love”. “When suspicion swings to his wife, John is forced to choose: keep quiet about his lechery or expose Abigail and possibly forfeit his own life (High Intensity)”. She uses the Salem witch trails, in such a way, to try and achieve her single goal of winning back John Proctor, by trapping him. She fakes being attacked by Elizabeth Proctor allegedly using a voodoo doll to pierce Abigail’s stomach. Her goal is not completed though in the end, because John loves Elizabeth so much, that he allows himself to be accused and be executed, rather than be with Abigail.
The characters, in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, who have a politically motivated goal for accusing others, are Reverend Parris and Deputy Grand Danforth. “Author’s Note. [Parris] believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side (Moss, 42).
Parris. ‘I do not fathom it, why I am I persecuted here? I cannot offer one proposition but there will be a howling riot of an argument. I have often wondered if the Devil be in it somewhere; I cannot understand you people other wise’ (Miller, 401).
This is an accurate description of Parris’s personality and attitude. He believes that there is a group of people that want him out of Salem, for whatever reason. He steadily continues the events of the Salem witch trails to reinforce his authority in Salem. He hopes that the showing of his power in the Salem witch trials in persecuting others denouncing anyone’s plans to get rid of him. One can draw the conclusion from this evidence of his political motivations, however, that he does not truly believe. The other character, in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, who has a politically motivated goal for accusing others, is Deputy Grand Danforth.
Author’s Note. Danforth is a grave man in his sixties, of some humor and sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause.
Danforth. ‘While I speak God’s law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering. If retaliation is your fear, know this-I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statues’ (Moss, 42).
This analysis and quote of Danforth is a definitive description of his personality. This conveys Danforth’s determination Because of this personality he continues the witch trials, in fear of delay therefore having people seeing him as an incapable judge. He is also, the one who issues the hangings of the alleged witches. One can draw a conclusion from his personality, however, that he does not believe that there are witches in Salem. Rather, Danforth cares more for his public image, than he does for human life in general.
The character, in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, who possesses a financially motivated goal for accusing others, is Thomas Putnam. He is the selfish man from the very beginning of the play. He doesn’t stop on his way of getting as much money as possible when accusations of witch trials started. He represents the selfishness of the villagers in The Crucible. Putnam is also a man that goes to drastic measures to get land (Primarily WIP). This is a precise breakdown of Thomas Putnam’s personality at work. If a man is found guilty of being a witch his land goes for sale and the family of the man cannot own it. He hopes that once someone is convicted of being a witch and they are “guilty”, that he could buy their land and become rich off of it. In the case of Giles Corey, however, his plan fails because the prosecutors torture Giles until death for not testifying, therefore Giles’s land goes to his family. One can see how Thomas Putnam uses the event of the Salem witch trials to his own personal benefit and he obviously does not believe that there were any witches in Salem at all.
Clearly, there were many motivational goals for the characters in The Crucible such as, sexual, political, and financial. Firstly, Abigail Williams fueled the witch trails, by faking various witch attacks. This gave her the opportunity to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor, so she could be with John. Secondly, Reverend Parris and Deputy Grand Danforth both used the witch trails to enhance their public political view and power. Thirdly, Thomas Putnam used the Salem witch trails to obtain financial gain. He bought the land that the confessed witch’s family lost. Lastly, one can recognize that just as The Crucible was a play in itself, the Salem witch trails was a huge act of personal gain for individuals.
“From Page to Stage.” Writing Mar. 2002: 4
“High-Intensity Acting Brings Out the Truth In ‘Crucible.'” The Washington Post
[Washington D.C.] 11 Mar. 2004, Sec: A3
Miller, Arthur. “The Crucible.” The American Experience. Ed. Kate Kinsella.
River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. 336.
Moss, Leonard. “A ‘Social Play'” Twenthieth Century Interpretations of The Crucible. Ed.
John H. Ferres. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1972.
Preliminary WIP Documentation
31st March 2006