Summary And Analysis Of Arthur Miller's Play The Crucible

The feeling of fulfillment and contentment are the basis of one's satisfaction and with that comes optimism. In a tale in which tragedy and heroism is simultaneously told, Arthur Miller's play the Crucible does not grant neither of these feelings.

Set in Salem 1962, Massachusetts, m puritan community developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious people whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction. Within the village structure in an attempt to rid Salem of the devil the authorities (religious and civil) looked to purify its citizens by conducting a witch hunt to eliminate evil. Yet the restrictive and unforgiving beliefs of this theocratic society makes the government's intentions ironic as the people who hold malicious desires are the ones who overcome the innocence and purity of Salem. It is with this idea of individual freedom vs the security of the community that leaves the reader unsatisfied. This can be demonstrated through the injustices occurring in the government and court, the protagonist embodiment of both imorarily and virtue as well as the idea of purification is at the expense of innocent lives, therefore the feeling of satisfaction is temporary. Due to the theocratic system, there was no clear discrepancy between the church and the state. Therefore, religion and movement were inseparably linked. In a life of conformity, the key to survive is discipline. One must be in church on the Sabbath; all children were to be baptized; no one could plough the fields on a Sunday. However, the governments’ obsession with trying to provide justice only caused injustice against the accused. In the Act One Putnam says, “She cannot bear to hear the Lord’s name… that’s a sure sign of witchcraft,” automatically jumping to the conclusion that the girls are performing witchcraft. Simply because he made this accusation, fear and hysteria prevailed across the town.

The constitution states that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”, however the law in Salem was made out to be that you are “guilty until proven innocent”. As a result the court condemned people without proper evidence being provided. "And why not, if they must hang for denyin' it? There are them that will swear to anything before they'll hang; have you never thought of that?". Reverend Hale. The idea of injustice is also showcased through the depiction of Abigail Williams, a selfish and evil girl who could bring down those around her by making them follow her acts of evil. However, those who followed Abigail were seen to be “holy” and “just”. Through this gained authority an atmosphere of fear and intimidation was created. We see this in Act One when Betty threaten to come clean of their actions she “smashes her across the face. This stage direction suggests the personality attributes of Abigail, that she is manipulative, vengeful and selfish, thus warning the reader of her dishonesty. The inverted symbol of the Judges Gavel is also another representing of the perverted justice. Although it may symbolize fairness and justice, it also bring about injustice and death. As a result the gavel is what is used to perpetuate hysteria rather than to instill law and order in Salem. According to the philosopher Daniel Little, “People often react with emotion to cruelty and suffering — they disapprove of instances where other people impose gratuitous pain and suffering on others.” Due to the prevailing injustice within Salem, it does not leave the reader optimistic but uninsured and as a result the feelings of fulfillment and contentment are not present. According to a publisher on Write Crawl, Julie Eshbaugh says “We will feel more empathy and become more engaged with a character who shares our challenges and vulnerabilities, and who finds a way to overcome them or succeed in spite of them.” This is the essence of what makes a satisfying character.

However, by positioning John Proctor, the play's protagonist, as embodying both immorality and virtue, and ultimately bringing him to his demise, Miller utilizes negativity to tell a more complex story about human nature than he otherwise could have he been solely positive. Pride is a sin, and is the pinnacle of many literary character’s tragic flaws. The importance of one's name in the Crucible is crucial to them. Proctor struggled with the idea of ruining his good reputation for being morally upright. Once announcing that he had sinned, he feared that community may see him as a false man, a hypocrite and one who is no longer faithful to the church and to god. His name could be tainted, “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” Because of his self-pride, he loathes himself for the sin in which he committed, therefore finds himself unworthy. Yet it is not until the final act where this fatal flaw truly leads to his demise. In Act IV Hale endorsed everybody to confess to their sin in the hope to saving their lives. As Proctor talked to Elizabeth she murmured, "It may well be God damns a liar less than he that who throws his life away for pride". It clear that Hale was trying to get Proctor to confess his lie and save his life. However, due to Proctor’s lack of courage in revealing his secret sin, Proctor eventually throws away his life for pride. Evidently it was his hubristic mindset which was one of the primarily factors that caused his downfall; someone who rises and falls as a result of their own ignorant flaw.

It is apparent that Miller’s intentions for Proctors death was to highlight the idea that one must sacrifice their own reputation in order to fight injustice and corrupt institutions in more in which conveyed. However I believe it due to his own vanity and pride that led to his own demise creating a character that does not overcome or succeed challenges presented to him. As result the reader does not feel empathy and is less engaged with the character, therefore creating a feeling of dissatisfaction. “To all intents and purposes, the power of theocracy in Massachusetts was broken”. Despite these final words of the play’s epilogue bringing freedom from disturbance the satisfaction is temporary as it is taken purely out of malice. With the theocracy now broken it leaves the power of the owners loss of all power as the proceedings are now stopped. Judge Danforth and Harthorne are prime examples of people who would lose their authority if a turning point would to come about and undermine the whole legal and religious structure. In an attempt to preclude the court from being overturned they make out that Proctor defence is an attack on the court. It is with this treatment of Proctor that Danforth and Hawthorne obsessive need to preserve the appearance of the court by trying to justify their actions with a hypocritical attitude about honesty. Admitting to twelve mistake hangings would mean the very foundations of their theocratic government would shattered, and the reputations of court officials would fall with it.

The pressures placed on both the innocent people as well as the court can refer to the significance of the title “The Crucible” acting as a metaphor for the pressure to conform for many people - as in a scientific crucible the metal is condensed - and made to conform to the ideal moral society. According to phycologist, Dr Jerald SteinI the Buddhist’s view on satisfaction is that “emotional pain is caused by grasping for things we don’t possess, the endless wish for fame or money or acclaim we don’t have”. This is evident in the restive government of Salem who desire to brainwash the community into to believing a certain idea in order to create unity and harmony. However, the courts satisfaction of their rulings are only of temporary satisfaction once they realize this ideal society as come at the cost of innocent lives. Therefore the ineffective attempt for the “perfect town” is unreachable, thus foreshadowing neither a uplifting or optimistic outcome.

13 January 2020
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