The Crucible Literal Vs Literary Essay Research

The Crucible: Literal Vs. Literary Essay, Research Paper Arthur Miller?s famous drama The Crucible, a tale of how accusations and lies ruinously impact a whole community, is very aptly titled. By definition, a ?crucible? is ?a

The Crucible: Literal Vs. Literary Essay, Research Paper

Arthur Miller?s famous drama The Crucible, a tale of how accusations and lies

ruinously impact a whole community, is very aptly titled. By definition, a ?crucible? is ?a

severe test,? and the challenges faced by Miller?s characters are many. The historical

events dramatized in the play reflect how core human values, including truth, justice and

love, are tested under life and death conditions. The trials of the characters and the values

they hold dearly come when their simple, ordered world ceases to be black and white and

easily deciphered, and is turned upside down in the gray shade of ambiguity.

A major test in The Crucible is found in how the household of John Proctor

responds in situations where hard choices must be made between lies and honor or truth

and shame. Early in the drama, it is revealed that Proctor has been unfaithful to his wife,

Elizabeth, indulging in an extra-marital affair with a servant girl, Abigail. Suspecting the

affair, Elizabeth dismisses Abigail amid rumor and innuendo, and Proctor confesses to his

wife. The value of truth in their marriage is sorely tested when Elizabeth cannot find it

within herself to forgive him. As the chain of events surrounding Abigail and the dancing

girls in the forest leads to mounting self-protective lies about their activities, many women

in the community, including Elizabeth, are accused of the practice of witchcraft. When the

magistrate comes to arrest Elizabeth, the charges revolve around a doll made by servant

girl Mary Warren and Abigail?s claim that the doll is Elizabeth?s devilish instrument of

torture. Mary Warren?s awakening to the truth about Abigail?s lies causes her to question

her experiences and the oddly vaulted place she holds in the community as one of the

bewitched. When Mary cannot withstand the pressure of the taunting girls in the face of

her truth, she crumbles. Even though Proctor realizes that coming forth and confessing to

his lechery with Abigail will bring shame and dire consequences upon himself and his

family, he steps forward to save the reputation and life of his wife. Proctor calls upon the

court to summon his wife to verify his faithlessness, swearing ?there are them that cannot

sing and them that cannot weep—my wife cannot lie. I have paid much to learn it.? The

irony of his confession of adultery to save his bride comes full circle when she denies his

adultery to save him. Ultimately, Proctor chooses to denounce the lie of ?doing the

Devil?s work,? knowing that the choice of truth will mean his death.

The value of justice in the ordered society of Salem is also put to the test. When

Betty Parris, the daughter of the self-serving Reverend Parris, falls ill , ?the whole

country?s talkin?witchcraft.? Parris, to save his tenuous position as minister of the flock,

calls in an expert in expelling demons, the Reverend John Hale. Reverend Hale is an

intellectual, full of desire to put to practice the tools he possesses that are ?weighted with

authority.? As Reverend Hale responds to the pleas of parents to intervene on behalf of

their daughters, the deceit of Abigail and the dancing girls takes on a life of its own,

resulting in the formation of a tribunal to judge the implicated witches. The reverend finds

himself caught up in a system of justice where confessions of consorting with the Devil are

rewarded with forgiveness and life, while denial of impurity and witchcraft are harshly

punished with death. Repeatedly, he tries to assert the value of justice, protesting that

Elizabeth Proctor is unjustly arrested and advocating that her husband be allowed a

lawyer. ?I may shut my conscience to it no more,? he cries as the court turns their focus

on Proctor, and eventually he leaves the court in the name of justice. The test of

Reverend Hale?s sense of justice later takes an ironic turn, when he returns to minister to

the condemned. As he upholds the value he places on justice, he supports Proctor?s

ultimate decision to die an honest man.

In the drama, the value of love is also challenged. The love that John and

Elizabeth Proctor have is first put to the test by Proctor?s infidelity and later as they try to

uphold their values as their community succumbs to the hysteria of the accusations of

witchcraft. They struggle to heal and maintain their marriage as they care for their farm

and children and to help their friends and neighbors who are falsely accused and at risk of

death as Salem is swept with paranoia. As Proctor and Elizabeth take bold steps to speak

up for what is right and true for their community, their best qualities come to the forefront

and they come to recognize all that is good and enduring about their love. In their final

moments together, when political pressures have taken such a turn that the court finds it

expedient to come up with a way to spare Proctor?s life, the imprisoned, pregnant

Elizabeth is asked to persuade her husband to confess to consorting with the Devil so that

he may live. As they agonize over the desperate choices facing them, Elizabeth tells him

?let none be your judge. There be no higher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! . . . I

never knew such goodness in the world!? Proctor at first chooses life, for her and their

children, but cannot bear the sacrifice of his soul to the lie. Her love for him and respect

for his basic need to be true to himself and his values gives him permission to choose to

die an honest man.

Throughout the drama, The Crucible, the characters are faced with chilling choices

as they maneuver through a world that has lost its moral compass. The crucibles, the

serious tests, of their dearly held values put them in the position of having to figure out

what is right and true in a world turned upside down. The value of truth is tested when

lies are rewarded and truth brings suffering, shame and the scaffold of the gallows. The

value of justice is challenged by a system that comes to be based on coerced confessions,

unsubstantiated charges and self-serving political scheming. The value of love, be it of

husband and wife or of friends and community, is put to the test where true love is

exemplified by fatal choices.


“The Crucible” – Arthur Miller