Crucible Essay, Research Paper
I agree that Arthur Miller engaged the audience to a large extent, and he also manages to get across a historical story at the same time and prove a point. I believe that through extensive character detail he has made it possible for us to understand exactly how the different characters are feeling, and why they behave the way they do. Miller also plays on our emotions by amplifying our own faults through the characters, as in the case of Abigail using the whole situation to her advantage, and being very manipulative and sly, all of which are characteristics that we don´t like in ourselves. For example, Abigail was using the whole situation to get back at John Proctor, she wanted him but he didn´t want her, and in trying to gain his affections, she involved all of the people of Salem. During the play Abigail had one goal (John Proctor) and she didn´t care how she achieved this.
Throughout the play the contrast between light and dark is a prominent feature. In the footnote at the begging of act one Miller has used the image of light “There is a narrow window at the left. Through it´s leaded pains the morning sunlight streams. A candle still burns near the bed… The room gives of an air of clean spareness.” This symbolises that everything is OK, there are no bad things happening. Light throughout the play is use to symbolise good. As the story line continues the atmosphere and even the scenes themselves become darker and more sinister, even the weather becomes more glum and depressing. Dark is used throughout the play to symbolise bad. For example, the courtroom is always dark, there are no open windows and no candles. In some cases certain characters bring light into a scene that was dark, like John Proctor. But when he is accused of witchcraft the light that accompanies him became a lot dimmer.
I also think Arthur Miller makes it very easy for us to pick out good and bad characters at the beginning of the play, its all laid out black and white. But some of the characters switch sides as the play goes on, at the beginning of the play I found Rev Hale was very single minded and annoying. However as the play developed he was one of the two people who could see sense in the whole situation. Towards the end of the play many characters became undistinguished as good or bad.
Arthur Miller also puts the audience in a very frustrating position because we can see how wrong and how stupid the characters are being, It´s just as if he´s putting us in the position of God. The audience would get very angry at the fact that only John Proctor and Mr Hale can see sense, even though it takes two acts for them to see it. An example of this would be John Proctor´s reaction to Abigail stumbling in with a needle in her stomach, claiming that John Proctor´s wife is a voodoo witch. “Why she done it herself I hope you aren´t takin´ it for proof, Mister”. Abigail claims this to get back at John Proctor, the audience however are led to believe that she did it to herself, even though it is not directly said in the text.
All of this would make the audience very frustrated and angry, and would make us start to blame and damn some characters that completely ignore the things that seem obvious to us. In this case I´m going to point out Judge Danforth because he is so wrapped up in his own little world and doing what he thinks is “right”. At first Danforth only frustrated me with his ignorance, but as the story line commenced I found my frustration turning to anger and my anger into hate. Abby also frustrated me because she manipulated the situation for her own benefit and to get at John Proctor
At the end of each act Miller leaves the play in a state of climax. At the end of act one Miller draws the curtain on the girl´s firing frenzied and false accusations of witchcraft against many women in Salem, act three ends with the dramatic exit of Mr Hale “I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!” Through this approach it always keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Leaving the audience with a climax at the end of each act allows the audience to toy with their emotions and the ones portrayed in the play.
It keeps the audience swept up in the story line, almost like a soap opera today, where each episode ends with a dramatic last scene, ensnaring the audience and ensuring they watch the next episode because they want to know what happens next. In fact, The Crucible is in many ways parallel to a modern day soap opera, in that its success as a whole depends on how involved the viewers, or audience, become with the characters and the story line. Human psychology is such that to become involved in something, we have to be able to relate to it, in the case of a play, the situations portrayed and the reactions of the characters. Therefore they have to be true to life. This is one of the reasons Miller´s play is so successful.
I also think that the fact that it is based on history, the story is true to time and the story is kept historical even through the language, which adds fascination. The play was not only written to record historical events in Salem but was also written to warn people of modern day witch hunts, such as the McCarthy “witch” hunt in which people were asked to turn in anyone who was a Communist at the time. The naming and shaming followed a similar pattern of that in Salem.
The violence in the play is shocking, mentally and physically; it even makes us reflect after the play has finished. I think Arthur Miller is trying to make us think about morality, group mentality, Puritanism, good/bad and self-interest. The play includes interesting messages about how reasonable individuals can become completely irrational and get carried away when they become part of a mob.
The whole story starts of with the girls rebelling against being repressed by Puritan beliefs, this ties in with the religion side and group mentality portrayed in the play. As in the case of people being so shocked and furious about the children dancing in the woods, “Now the, ir, the midst of such disruption, my own household is the centre of some obscene practice. Abominations are done in the forest”, to us as an audience in this day and age, this dancing would be seen as fun but at the time the play was set it would have been considered an impurity. Children have always wanted to have fun, however the Puritan religion forbids this, which is like being a musician and being told he´s not allowed to play his instrument.
He is deliberately making the story line complex by introducing many different emotional and moral layers to each of the characters, for example, Mary Warren. Towards the beginning Mary and Abigail have an argument about what they should do about the accusations of witchcraft. “What´ll we do? The village is out! I just come from the farm; the whole country´s talkin´ witchcraft! They´ll be callin´ us witches, Abby!” From the text it is clearly obvious that Abby is not going to give up or turn herself in.
It´s also interesting to see how different relationships develop as the plot unfolds. For example, the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor goes through almost unrecognisable changes. At the beginning of the play we see their relationship very frosty and cold. On the first introduction of the two characters together this coldness is portrayed to us with Proctor´s declaration of his only intent to please Elizabeth and Elizabeth´s cold acceptance. However at the end of act four we hear the warm and passionate exchange between the two characters as Elizabeth opens her heart to John and although not wishing for him to testify to Witchcraft desperately wanting him to live so he could bring up there unborn baby together. We can see and sympathise with how each of the relationships are being affected by the pressure they are being put under. This, as with the characteristics of the characters, allows us to become even more involved in the plot
But in the end, who is to blame? Puritanism, Abby or Danforth? The play is deliberately complex and multi-faceted, and not in plain and simple black and white, even though the characters themselves are black and white. In my opinion everyone´s to blame, If one person would have seen sense or not added to problem or admitted it was a hoax it would have never happened. If Abigail hadn´t added to the story it wouldn´t have happened. If Judge Danforth hadn´t of been so single-minded he would have seen through straight through Abigail´s sweet and innocent routine, and so on. But at the end as in many situations in our own lives no one is completely to blame. Very rarely is anything one person´s fault.
By Sam Roberts