Crucible Essay, Research Paper
In 1962, Massachusetts was plagued by a witchcraft craze that would result in the hanging of at least 20 people and the jailing of at least 150 others. This event is considered one of the most tragic incidents in our American history. The witchcraft hysteria originated in the small village of Salem, where most of the people were poor, uneducated, but more importantly, superstitious. The town was quick to blame witchcraft when several of the girls in the village became indisposed by a bizarre ailment involving lapses and seizures into an unconscious case. These afflicted girls were questioned for some time and submitted the names of the women who were responsible for this awful spell. Eventually, other ailing girls began to give names of those who were presumably persecuting them, leaving dozens of peopled jailed. As soon as this witchcraft hysteria began to get out of hand, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony designated several of the colony’s leading citizens to assemble a special court responsible for trying all those suspected of witchcraft. It was at this point that the Salem witch trials began and would later be the plot of a major 19th century play. It was 1953 when Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, which translates to “the test”, a play based on the actual events of the witch trials in Salem during 1692. Although Miller’s play is a strong story about what took place in Salem Village, it was inspired by Miller’s belief that the madness surrounding the witchcraft trials is parallel to the contemporary political climate of McCarthyism. In Arthur Miller’s version of the Salem witchcraft trials, he strongly shows the many tests that were laid upon the characters and goes out of his way to sum up the way they were handled. Almost every character in The Crucible was tested such as John Proctor, Reverend Parris, and Reverend John Hale. John Proctor, supposedly culpable of taking part in witchcraft, is a great example of a character being put to the test. The court held responsible for trying those presumed guilty of witchcraft, made it clear that if the suspected did not confess to their evil actions they would face death. If they did confess, they would live on in shame. This was John Proctor’s main problem. He could confess to his sins and live, but his written confession would be posted on the church doors for the entire village to see. John wanted to stay alive but without living in shame for the rest of his life. He had a good reputation in Salem and he wanted to keep it that way. We can understand this view when he cries from is soul at the end of Act four, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another name in my life! How may I live without my name!” John also feels that his own confession to the court and to God would be good enough. Why must the whole town be constantly aware of his immoral sins if not needed. John Proctor explains this to the court when he says, “Damn the village! God does not need my name nailed upon the church! God sees my name; God knows how black my sins are! It is enough!” At the end of the story, John finally decides not to confess properly and face being hanged. By doing this he shows strong morals for what he believes is right, and sort of goes against the path that everyone thought he would take. In the final scene Elizabeth says, “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”
Reverend Parris, the minister of the village, is also tested throughout the story and tries to handle the witchcraft that rumbles through the town as best as he could. Parris has very weak morals and is only concerned with his own reputation as the minister. He is strung on his own authority and believes he is the chosen one and no one could over rule him. In Act one, we see a great example of his selfishness. Reverend Parris barely cares for the health of his own daughter, Betty, and is worried what people will think of him when they find out he has witchcraft in his family. Reverend Paris is not sure how he stands, but I think he feels bad for John Proctor and wants him to live. We see an example of this in Act four when Parris shouts “Praise be to the Lord”, after Mr. Proctor signs the confession form. I think at the end of The Crucible, Reverend Parris feels that what was important to him before is no longer. I also feel that he has been beaten since John did not do what he wanted him to. Reverend John Hale, who was also tested through The Crucible, has very strong views about the witch world. He goes directly by the book, and was out to correct anyone who went against what he believed about witchcraft. During Act one John Hale takes his time in investigating, because he does not want to presume any witchcraft without stable evidence. All of this changes as the story progresses. Later, Reverend Hale has some trouble determining his feelings from the beliefs of the church. In Act two John Hale shares his feelings about the devil and God when he says, “Man, remember, until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.” He has faith in John Proctor and wants to believe every word he speaks, but he lets the church interfere with his own being. A great example of this is when John Proctor mentions Abigail’s name in court and tries to convince the court she is not innocent. At this time, Reverend Hale wants to believe John but thinks to himself, “How could the niece of the minister be involved in witchcraft? Impossible!” At the end of the story, Reverend Hale tries his hardest to convince John Proctor to confess. At first, he disagrees with John Proctor’s decision but later he is proud of John for standing up for what he thought was right. In conclusion, many tests were put upon the people in the Salem witch trials and Arthur Miller represents them with great expertise. It is not fair to say if any of the characters passed the test because they all fought hard for what they believed.