The Crucible is a tragedy written by one of America’s foremost writers and playwrights Arthur Asher Miller. Written in 1953 The Crucible heavily derives from the Salem Witch Trials of 1693 Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is a symbolic piece of discrimination in the United States of America through the years. The play explores different themes such as love morality self-righteousness contempt selfishness theocracy & blind faith religious dogma superstitions and the fear of the unknown.
Appreciating the significance of The Crucible as a prominent piece of American drama requires a critical analysis of every aspect of the play. Additionally it is also necessary to evaluate the undertones & symbolisms that the author portrays through the narrative.
The critical analysis of any literature typically investigates all essential aspects from the themes settings plot & characters to the narrative’s structure cohesiveness diction and everything else. Of course the limited scope prevents a comprehensive investigation but the write-up will critically analyze two central aspects necessary to understand the play’s significance.
Let us now explore The Crucible’s ever-relevant theme the frailties & flaws of human nature.
The Crucible’s story mirrors the events of the Salem Witch Trials in 1693. 17th century America was a hotbed of racism intolerance discrimination and theocracy. The early colonies in the USA were replete with Puritans from England who harbored blind faith in religion & unnatural fear of the unknown. Ignorance religious fanaticism superstitions regressive societal norms and discrimination defined the societies & communities of those times.
The town of Salem in the play has distinctive repressive and regressive norms dictated by theocratic Puritans. Several commonplace things are forbidden while the townsfolk need to abide by numerous strange customs & regulations.
In The Crucible several native girls of Salem were accused of witchcraft when the daughter of the town’s revered who was a part of the posse fell ill. An investigation ensued from the town's Church and in a bid to save their skin the accused began to insinuate & incriminate others. What follows is a catastrophic chain of events that rips apart the town.
Jealousy contempt selfishness discrimination fear-mongering paranoia - all rear their ugly heads among the ignorant close-minded people of the town and seal the final fate of many. Different characters had different motivations behind their actions while fear & paranoia act as catalysts. And these sins of society define those times & underline the plot & settings of The Crucible.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible uses the settings and incidences associated with the Salem Witch Trials as a framework criticizing intolerance discrimination & the duality of human nature. It is akin to a social commentary delivered via a narrative drama which draws upon parallelism between two different times & circumstances.
The play touches upon numerous themes throughout its prose.
Theocracy religious blindness and fear of the unknown are critical aspects of the play. Arthur Miller uses these negative attributes to draw parallels with the oppressive political & ideological atmosphere of the 1950s USA.
The town of Salem had peculiar rules wherein enjoyment & entertainment was forbidden the Puritan Church was the be-all & end-all people could poke around other’s personal affairs and anything out of the ordinary was declared heretical. Moreover lack of education and years of persecution made the people of Salem wary suspicious and narrow-minded. Add to that the fear superstitions and racism and you have a perfectly regressive anti-egalitarian society in Salem.
Abigail and the other accused made Tituba Elizabeth Proctor Sarah Good and many others their scapegoat. In a bid to save their skin they deflected accusations of practicing witchcraft and satanism towards the others. Abigail Williams had the additional reasons of hatred jealousy & revenge.
The play delves into many sensitive themes sexual issues hatred of one's neighbors and desire for land. Every mean thought held back for so long finally came out in a surprising way.
The Evils of Human Society: The story depicts a catastrophic chain of events triggered and aggravated by a scorned & hateful lover. And racism intolerance lust for power moral degradation selfishness utter contempt and blind faith in religious superstitions worsen things further.
Lack of education & awareness and isolation from proper civilization had polluted the Salem townsfolk with ignorant ideas & the fear of the unknown. And people with ulterior motives such as Abigail Williams and Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth use these aspects to achieve their ends.
Tituba the only black character in the play symbolizes victimization due to racial prejudice and xenophobia. And Abigail Williams is the perfect example of evil personified.
A Social Commentary: The trials depicted within the play reflect the political & social scenarios of the 1950s when the US government’s House of Representative’s Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) persecuted anyone exhibiting socialist & communist ideals. Experts consider the drama to be an outpouring of criticism by Miller on the widespread racial & ideological discrimination prevalent in the USA during the 1950s.
Miller has found an appropriate context with the 1693 Salem Witch Trials where misunderstood individuals were put to trial & hanged. Thanks to the machinations of selfish & contemptuous people and the intolerance blind faith greed & flawed self-righteousness the lives of many innocents were snuffed out.
One key thing to note is that The Crucible offers a fictionalized recount of the Salem Witch Trials. Arthur Miller has taken certain creative liberties regarding the details of certain characters for narrative development but the overall story remains the same.
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