The Crucible Literary Analysis
- Pages: 13
- Word count: 3139
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John Proctor is not a saint, however he is brave man. He has committed the act of fraud personally and criminally, however, he has confessed to his mistakes and is now facing the consequences. The main themes of The Crucible are deception and fraud. It is structured, using the conventions of the Greek tragic genre some of which includes harmatia, hubris and peripatea. Miller uses these conventions to lure the reader into reading more, as it makes the story more catastrophic and dramatic. Arthur Miller has used the historical subject of the Salem witch trials.
The witch trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and were based on the accusation of a twelve year old girl, who claimed that she had witnessed a number of Salem residents keeping away from church on Sunday and communicating with the Devil instead. These people were charged with being witches and wizards, and were later arrested and imprisoned, which then lead to a number of hangings, if they did not confess. In The Crucible, Abigail is the teenager who accuses people of communicating with the devil and convinces others that she is telling the truth.
Her age has been raised to seventeen, to make it more convenient for the plot of the play. The Crucible is also a commentary on ‘McCarthyism’, the intense anti-communist suspicion in the United States of America in a period that lasted roughly from the late 1940’s to the late 1950’s. It was the name given to a movement led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This movement involved the hunting down and exposing of people suspected of having communist sympathies or connections.
Even though people found guilty in McCarthy’s witch hunt were not executed, they still had damaged reputations that could not be repaired. Arthur Miller himself came under suspicion during this time, and like Proctor he refused to give anybody else’s name but his. In The Crucible, the whole society has been affected by the accusations of Abigail. This is the social context of the play, as Proctor is constantly asked to if he saw anybody else with the Devil. People accused of being communists were also asked to reveal the names of others who had communist sympathies or links. Proctor is first introduced in the middle of Act One.
He is shown as somebody the servants should be scared of. “Why shall I pay you? I am looking for you more often than my cows! ” This shows that if the girls are fearful of him, some members of the village must also be frightened of him, this means that John Proctor is a well respected resident of Salem, somebody that people could go to if they were in difficulty. When Proctor speaks to Abigail he uses formal language, which gives him an authoritative voice, as if he speaks to an infant, trying his best to convince Abigail that anything they once shared is over. “Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.
This indicates that he regrets being unfaithful to Elizabeth and he is putting any misleading thought aside, to set things straight with his wife. The relationship he has with Elizabeth is different from what he had with Abigail. Although it is affectionate it is not lustful. “Are you well today? ” He speaks to Elizabeth more softly showing love. “I mean to please you, Elizabeth. ” This emphasises how remorseful he is, and how desperate he is to prove to Elizabeth that he still does love her and then he attempts to kiss her, Elizabeth however receives the kiss but does not return it.
This shows us that Proctor is not wholly forgiven; it also displays to us how deeply Proctors unfaithfulness has affected her, as she still has suspicions, showing she has lost all faith in him. Elizabeth and John are making fragile attempts at rekindling their relationship. “On Sunday let you come with me, and we’ll walk the farm together. ” This proves that Proctor is trying to be the caring husband he once was, by spending more time with her. Parris is the local reverend; he is a widower, who lives with his young daughter Betty, and his teenage niece, Abigail.
Parris and John share a different kind of relationship. It is a relationship of resentment. “I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. “There discussions always end up in dispute as they try to express their views. “Man! Don’t a minister deserve a house to live in? ” This verifies how much they irritate each other. When they communicate with each other, they speak with anger, undermining each other; it is as if they cannot help themselves from creating such chaos. Mary Warren is Proctors maid.
But Proctor also acts as a fatherly figure, as she stays in his house helping his wife. The relationship they share is complex, as he talks to her like a father but she does not act like a daughter, she seems very timid and frightened of John. In Act Two, when Mary arrives home from court, revealing the news about Goody Osborn’s hanging, Proctor orders Mary to bed – like a father would if their child did not obey – but this time Mary stands up for herself, refusing to be treated like a child. “I am eighteen and a woman” When Elizabeth is chained and taken away, Proctor is near to strangling Mary.
He is determined to bring her to court so she can explain the poppet incident. His motive for going into Salem and testifying in court is that he is outraged by the fact that Elizabeth might die for him. “My wife will never die for me! ” The fact that Proctor is so self motivated tells the audience that deep inside, he will do anything for his wife, proving to us that he is a true husband and man. John Proctor thinks that Abigail and the girls were just pretending about compacting with the Devil. But there is another reason why he wants to expose the girls’ pretence.
Proctor is desperate for the truth to be out in the open, to clear his conscience and once the village knows that no witchcraft took place then all prisoners would be free and so Elizabeth would be able to return to her home where she belonged. When it was time for Proctor to stand up in court, he had some reservations, doubtful as to whether he should confess or whether he should just be hung. “I mean to deny nothing! ” This shows that he is confused, not knowing what to think. Whilst he is being questioned he is also asked if there was anybody else he saw with the Devil – this links to the McCarthy trials.
In the McCarthy trials people accused of communicating with the Devil were constantly asked to reveal the names of others who had links to communist opinions. Act 3 is a very dramatic scene as John Proctor accuses Abigail Williams of being a whore. Here, Miller expects the audience to be stunned but also relieved as they sit back with ease now that they know what is coming, that Proctor is sure to confess soon. From the moment Proctor and Abigail are left alone dramatic irony fills the scene and we know that soon fate will take over revealing their shameful secret.
The harmatia of John Proctor is that he was once attracted to Abigail Williams; this being the seed of his destruction, as he is already married, and if people found out, could lead to him being accused of lechery and adultery. To make matters worse, Abigail won’t let him go, as she flirtatiously torments him for the short time they are alone together earlier on in Act One, which leads on to hubris: the feeling of excessive pride or self confidence. In Act One, Proctor feels slightly hubris for saying ‘no’ to Abigail’s request of giving her a ‘soft word’ earlier on in the play.
He is proud of himself for not being tempted to do the wrong thing. Miller also uses peripatea; when the audience thinks there might just be a happy ending. This happens when at last Proctor confesses to laying lustful eyes upon Abigail. When all they girls begin to shiver and look up into the sky, dramatic irony springs into our minds as we know sooner or later Proctor must confess to being a lecher, so that the community knows that it was all pretence and so that he is able to free his wife. Miller has prepared us for Proctors confession by the chaos that happens before.
When Proctor leaps at Abigail aiming to grab her by the hair, we instantly know that something good must come out from his doing (i. e. saving his beloved wife). John Proctor’s accusation causes a strong impact with the people around him as well as the audience. The people in court are astonished that such a good man is able to commit such a filthy offense. “(horrified): John, you cannot say such a-” This stresses how they are struggling to come to terms with the fact that a Salemite, such as John Proctor is a lecher. The audience is also astonished; Proctor’s confession to knowing Abigail is the peak of dramatic climax.
The viewers are so eager to find out what will happen to John now that he has admitted to “knowing” Abigail. However, we are disappointed, except, we are shortly evoked with pity and ambivalence: on one hand we think that Proctor deserves every bit of punishment he gets for being unfaithful to his loyal wife, and on the other hand we feel a bit sorry for him as he takes all the blame for what has happened. As well as pity we are also filled with the sense of catharsis, and we sigh with relief that everything is out in the open, but we also identify with his struggle and suffering.
It is at this point that we also recognize the great tragic decline, Proctor who was once the hero falls from his tragic status, by his own doing. All this concludes to John Proctor being a tragic hero – he has broken society’s rules and he is now paying the price. When Elizabeth is being questioned about John’s lechery ordeal, she is very emotional. She is constantly looking back to Proctor so he can give her clues about what she must say. But Danforth is stern and she is forced to look away from her husband.
Elizabeth has no choice but to answer the question as what she thought would be the good answer to save her husband. At this Miller expects the audience to be disappointed yet sorry as Elizabeth has given the wrong answer, whilst trying to be the good wife. This too creates dramatic tension, but it doesn’t achieve dramatic climax, as we are more concerned about what would happen to Proctor rather than Elizabeth because he is the more dominant character. Hale and Danforth both respond differently towards Goody Proctors response.
Danforth is very strict about his court business, not taking a second answer from Elizabeth. “She has spoken. Remove her! ” This is because as a deputy governor it is his job to be severe and stern; however he also holds a personal opinion of Proctor and is taking this chance to put him in prison for either perjury or lechery. “She spoke nothing of lechery and this man has lied! ” Hale on the other hand holds a different opinion of Proctor. Reverend Hale believes entirely that John is telling the truth; and that Abigail is lying.
“From the beginning this man has struck me true. As Hale is a Reverend, it is rare that he tells lies, because he is a very religious person, so that is why he expects people to believe him when he states something that is very much about a controversial issue. In Act Four, Proctor wrestles with his conscience, trying to think of the right thing to do. He is forever changing his mind about confessing or whether he should be hung. This makes the audience uneasy as the tension rises and the audience waits impatiently for Proctors final answer. Miller has done this so that it keeps the audience interested, making it obligatory for them to pay close attention as the play draws to an end.
The judges and Hale have almost convinced him confess. When he speaks to Elizabeth he is always asking for her opinion about what he should do, but Elizabeth being the loyal wife, does not give him a straight answer making it even more frustrating for the audience. “I am not your judge, I cannot be. Do as you will, do as you will! ” This suggests that she doesn’t want to tell him to do the wrong thing, but she is also telling him to follow his heart and do what he thinks is right. But then Proctor decides he cannot bring himself to sign his name on the confession. This unwillingness shows his desire not to dishonour his fellow prisoners.
More importantly, it illustrates his obsession with his good name. Reputation was very important in Salem. Earlier in the play, Proctor’s desire to protect his good name keeps him from testifying against Abigail. Now, however, he has come to a true understanding of what a good reputation means and what he has to do to keep it— that he should tell the truth, and not lie, to save himself. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name! ” he shouts; this defence of his name allows him to gather the courage to die, heroically, with his goodness. In The Crucible Miller uses a lot of references to the Bible.
This shows that Salem in the 1690’s was a very religious town. This is partly why Proctor is willing to be executed. “I confess to God and God has seen my name on this! ” This shows that he is being a true Christian now giving up his life and saving himself from lying. At the end of the play, the characters that witnessed Proctors refusal of signing his name all have diverse views of him, now that he is to be executed. Rebecca Nurse is pleased with Proctors decision. She is happy that he didn’t follow the lead of the others who were foolish enough to confess to a lie. “Let you fear nothing! Another judgement waits us all! Here Miller has used formal language to express the way Rebecca feels. This suggests that she feels strongly about not being hypnotised into doing the wrong thing. In contrast, Parris has a change of attitude towards Proctor; he is giving advice to Elizabeth.
“Go to him Goody Proctor! There is yet time. ” The language here is also formal but there is a tinge of desperation in it. Parris sounds as if he really wants to save Proctor from his death sentence. Hale too shares the same opinion as Parris, he preaches about how Elizabeth is the only one that can save him, asking her rhetorical questions. “What profits him to bleed? This shows that he cares truly only for the welfare of Proctor and his family or that he feels guilty for not stopping everything that has happened, so he wants to clear his conscience.
Hale has been trying to convince John that confession is the right thing to do, but John dismisses his guidance. I don’t think that Hales guidance was right; it was never up to him to decide what Proctor did with his life. And finally Elizabeth, Elizabeth is almost regretful and apologetic, but she is not stopping John. She is happy enough that Proctor made his own decision without any input from her, and that’s why she is letting him be.
Her final statement “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it away from him! ” suggests that Elizabeth thinks John is happy in leaving her and this world. Miller ended the play with this statement because it gets the audience to think about what has happened throughout the play and how wrong decisions and accusations can make life a misery. Proctors statement “What is John Proctor? I am no saint, for me it is fraud. ” Suggests that he is trying to find out the meaning of him being born and what type of person he really is. Miller wrote this book on the subject of the McCarthy trials.
McCarthyism was the public accusation of communist sympathies. The people accused where considered un-American, i. e. being unpatriotic or disloyal to the United States. They were also accused of being subversive, intentionally undermining the government. This consequently led to mass hysteria, as did the accusations in Salem. In conclusion to “How far do you agree with Proctors analysis of himself? ” the audience agree placidly that Proctor is not at all a saint because of the amount of grief he has caused the town, but again he is a courageous man for admitting his mistakes and subsequently facing the penalty.
Although, the society as a whole is to be blamed for the eventual chain of events that occurred in Salem, Proctor is still partially faulted. He has committed the offense of fraud, not only personally, when he lied Elizabeth about talking to Abigail “Why, then, it is not as you told me. “, but also criminally, when he lies in court about seeing the Devil. Miller named the play The Crucible. A crucible has three meanings, each of them link in to the actual plot of the play. A Crucible is a container in which metals are heated to extract the pure element.
Here in the play John Proctor is in a life threatening ordeal and his death at the end shows that he too has come through the fire to become pure. It can also mean a severe or trial of faith. Proctor, throughout the whole play has had to tackle his conscience, wondering whether it was right to tell the truth. He has also found that keeping faith in himself and others is the best choice. And the final definition for crucible is a place, time or situation characterised by confluence of powerful intellectual, social, economic or political forces.
This is where McCarthyism ties in with the play. The historical notes that Miller has used are unique. He has used them as a subtext, which has an underlying message, which we as the viewers can interpret individually. It shows us that Danforth mirrors McCarthy in the way that he questions the people and also in the way that he is very strict and stern. The historical notes highlight the aggressive and persuasive vocabulary, highlighting the theme of fraud and deception, but also biasing against the views and lifestyle of people now and then.