Essay, Research Paper
Towards the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, the Puritan “utopian” society which had been established in the colonial America began to deteriorate. This was a result of many factors, but is generally considered to be the result of a failed experiment in s
ict applied theology. One of the early symptoms of this decadence was the Salem witch trials, which serve as the subject for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. This panic over witchcraft became a type of “heat test” for the Puritan society, analogous to the
pes of tests performed in ceramic crucibles in the study of science. In titling his play, Miller uses the notion of a crucible as a metaphor for the transformation and testing of American Puritanism.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a crucible as “a pot… used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat (200;Webster).” Fire is applied to the vessel and the contents melt from their original solid form into a liquid. This is s
bolic of the melting of Puritanism from its original and, not ironically, “pure” form into a melted down version, with other influences tainting the mixture. It is apparent that witchcraft is viewed as one of the evil “impurities” present in their socie
which taints its integrity as a uncontaminated, doctrine-bound community. The text itself denies “that nothing broke into this strict and somber way of life (2;Act 1).” The eventual consequence is a loosening of the doctrine, symbolized in the melting
wn of a substance to the point where it no longer functions as it did in its original state. Metaphorically, we anticipate that as heat continues to be applied, the crucible itself will not be able to withstand the pressure and will crack.
A second, alternative definition of a crucible is “a severe test (200;Webster).” This certainly seems to apply to Miller’s Salem. The mass hysteria surrounding the witch trials most certainly did test the solidity of colonial Puritanism, and although t
test was indeed passed in the sense that Puritan society did not immediately collapse, its decline in the years following proves that the stability of Salem was to be questioned. As more and more seemingly innocent are condemned, the crack in Miller’s
ucible seems to be widening.
There is literary evidence to support the claim that The Crucible treats on the cold-war hysteria and McCarthyism, during which Arthur Miller himself was blacklisted. Miller even makes references to the analogy between Salem and the modern internal con
ict, noting that “there are Communists and capitalists now, and in each camps… spies of each side are at work undermining the other (32;Act 1).” The crucible metaphor seems to apply to this too, as the Communist competing world power was, in some effe
, a test of American democracy. The McCarthy era as well saw a deviation from the officially recognized public doctrine as the clearly defined enemy, the variance being that Communism was primarily a foreign influence, while witchcraft originated from w
Not once in The Crucible does the author mention a crucible or any other significant vessel. We are, therefore, left to draw our own conclusions as to the symbolism behind the title. In examination of both definitions, a melting pot and a severe test,
find distinct parallels to the themes of the play, as well as to the more recent historical parallel during which it was written. Just as the crucible is the medium for transforming and testing the ability of a substance to maintain its physical state,
he crucible Miller refers to in his title is one inside of which the core of American Puritanism is tried and transformed.