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Thematic Questions

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1. What is a crucible and how is it used? Justify Miller’s choice of title for his play. A crucible is a ceramic container that can withstand very high temperature and is used for metal, glass and pigment production as well as a number of modern laboratory processes. Miller’s choice of the title “The Crucible” is due to the same reason as the courtroom being referred to as a crucible: using the heat of questioning and scrutiny, they burned away all the impurities, i.e. lies and half-truths, to get the purified product the “truth”. 2. How do Hale’s preconceptions influence his interpretation of events? How does his interpretation change? What are the implications of his conversion?

Hale’s preconceptions has influenced his interpretation of events in that he initially thought that he had the authority over the town due to his extensive knowledge of witchcraft. He expected to find witches, however his interpretation changes throughout the play as he realises that innocent townspeople are being falsely accused, such as John Proctor. The implications of his conversion are when he encourages the accused to confess, i.e. the good people to lie, even though he believes that he is doing the “Devil’s work”.

3. Proctor calls Hale “Pontius Pilate.” Explain the allusion. Do you agree or disagree? The allusion is that Pontius Pilate was the ruler in Bethlehem who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the order of the Jewish leadership, despite the fact that he knew Jesus was innocent and did not deserve to be killed in such a way. Considering the parallel, Elizabeth as Jesus and Hale as Pontius Pilate, the comparison is appropriate. Both Elizabeth and Jesus are innocent; and their accusers are assumed to be innocent from the beginning. Hale and Pilate have some authority, some say in their respective matters, and yet they both (although reluctantly) turn their accused citizen over to the local authorities.

Just as Pilate found no real guilt in Jesus, Hale has real doubts that Elizabeth is guilty; and as the play goes on, Hale becomes more convinced that all the accusations of witchcraft are false. When Hale consents to allow the local authorities to take Elizabeth, this is comparable to Pilate handing Jesus over the local authorities. 4. As a representative of the state government, is Danforth neutral and fair? How the following statement be received in court today: “Do you know, Mr Proctor, that the entire contention of the state in these trials is that the voice of Heaven is speaking through the children?” Why was it considered valid in Salem in 1692?

As a representative of the state government, Danforth would not be considered as neutral nor fair. The statement “Do you know, Mr Proctor, that the entire contention of the state in these trials is that the voice of Heaven is speaking through the children?” would be considered valid in Salem in 1692 as the townspeople whom resided in Salem were Puritans. The Puritans were a group that were so immersed in religion, moral and societal reforms that they directed all things by God’s will. From contemporary society view, the Puritans would be seen as people who based their ruling on religion instead of the facts.

Danforth is an excellent example, as he overlooked the fact that Abigail and the girls could have been lying to him in order to avoid humiliation in front of the village. Instead, he insisted on the idea of them being the “voice of Heaven”, which consequently lead to the death of many innocent people, such as John Proctor. As opposed to present day justice systems equipped with technological advances, the above statement would not have a chance against today’s court system. There is not a witness or tangible evident to prove that the accused is guilty of witchcraft, but just the words of the “victims”.

5. “Them that will not confess will hang.” Explain the major irony of that kind of confession.

The major irony of that kind of confession is that the accused were not even given a chance to prove their innocence, instead the only way they could save themselves was to admit guilt, even though there was no truth behind it. It is also logically ironic, as they would liberate those who claim to be “witches”, despite that dealing with the Devil was a grave sin, and instead execute those who claim to be innocent. Also, this is against the Bible in which it is stated: “Let no witches live”.

6. Why must Danforth hang Proctor despite his confession?

Danforth must hang Proctor despite his confession because Proctor refuses to post his signed confession on the church door, in order to save his name and redeem himself due to his lechery with Abigail. His name was the only thing Proctor has left, however, Danforth cannot release Proctor unless he signs his name, as too many innocent people have already been executed. Also, if Danforth makes an exception for Proctor it would mean their innocent lives have gone to waste, which is not just, therefore Danforth has no choice to be go along with it. Furthermore, he cannot afford to admit that he was blind to the girls’ lies and was a victim to his own logic.

7. What is the purpose of Miller’s comments and explanations throughout the play? If these were omitted, would your understanding of the play been affected? How?

(IDK?) The purpose of Miller’s comments and explanations throughout the play is to provide historical context because he didn’t want readers to trying learning the history of the Salem Witch Trials to read his play and assume it to be a true representation of events. While Miller has used the names of real witch hunt victims in his play, and some of the characters met the same fates in the play and real life, the personalities and motives of the characters in the play were crafted and created by Miller. Furthermore, it provides the audience a better understanding of the characters in terms of their personality, etc. Therefore, it is necessary for him to add his comments and explanations. If these were omitted from the play, my understanding of the play would be slightly less clear, as the descriptions of the characters have provided me more understanding.

8. Arthur Miller stated that “The tragedy of The Crucible is the everlasting conflict between people so fanatically wedded to this orthodoxy that they could not cope with the evidence of their senses.” What does he mean by this?

In short, the tragedy of The Crucible involved the theocracy’s failure to control Salem’s witchcraft hysteria. In context, Salem was a theocratic society, in which ministers also had judicial power over society. Because the judges were ministers, religions took precedence over realism; they were unable to come to their senses and realise that the accusations of witchcraft were out of human emotions. In other words, this quote means that sometimes people are so narrow-minded that they do not see the whole picture, and those who see what they want to see because they cannot handle the actuality and do not like the truth. People such as Danforth, refuses to admit that the Salem witch trials were the result of a cover-up, and that the court hung innocent people all due to a lie. 9. Describe Proctor’s metamorphosis in the final act. What changes in him? How does he represent humanity throughout the play?

The first event that causes great change in Proctor is Elizabeth’s arrest. Knowing that Elizabeth is the innocent one, Proctor is incited to act on his wife’s behalf. He shows his change by calling out Abigail Williams as an adulterer and liar. The second cause of Proctor’s change is when he faces the gallows in Act Four. Proctor is eventually convinced to make a confession of his own. By now, he has given up every shred of dignity he has. He confesses verbally, but when he is asked to sign a paper that will be hung for all of Salem to see, he recants, exclaiming: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!

How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!” This scene shows the biggest transformation in Proctor — he realises that he can’t sign himself to a lie and live as a man of integrity. He tears the confession and is hanged. The reason that this shows the biggest transformation is because Proctor acknowledges his ability to be a man of integrity and desire to protect his name and his family. As Elizabeth states, “he has his goodness now.” Though Proctor has committed one of the worst kinds of sins by committing adultery against his wife, he is perhaps one of the most upstanding men of Salem. He is willing to shed his dignity in order to save his wife. He is one of the few who sees the truth of the events. Though he, in the end, dies for his pride, he at least dies with the truth. Proctor represents humanity because:

He is someone the audience can relate to Miller created Proctor mirroring himself People can learn right from wrong from Proctor

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