An American Tragedy: Comparing "The Crucible" and "The Scarlet Letter"

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An American Tragedy: Comparing "The Crucible" and "The Scarlet Letter"

by: Jamie Newlands

Two American authors, of two distinctly different time periods had one very similar task, to turn a piece of American History into a believable tragedy. Arthur Miller with The Crucible and Nathaniel Hawthorne with The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps one might wonder which author did a better job in doing so, but with such different pieces of work, this is hardly a question that can be answered.

Miller's the Crucible was written in the nineteen-fifties, with a definite purpose, to remind Americans of the horrible witch trials that took place in Salem, even before the American Revolution was a thought. It served as a tool to warn against the same thing happening with the Communist hearings going on in our country at the time it was written. Miller wrote a play, which was not well received by the first audiences to witness it, but none the less is now recognized as one the finest pieces of literature written by an American.

Hawthorne's the Scarlet Letter was written in the eighteen hundreds, with no other purpose but for Hawthorne to write a novel. Hawthorne perhaps chose this dark subject to convey his contempt for Puritanism. He was a man preoccupied with the hidden sin which is illustrated in not only the Scarlet Letter, but also in The Minister's Black Veil. One might even say that Hawthorne's ancestry (Hathorne) is what he might consider his own "Pearl", and this is why he changed his name.

Like Miller's the Crucible, The Scarlet Letter takes place in Puritan Salem and has a tragic hero, but these are the only similarities between the two great works.

In Miller's play, the tragic hero is John Proctor, a man whose pride causes the demise of many women, tried as witches. Had Proctor chosen to reveal his sin of lechery with Abigail Williams before the problem got out of hand, he would've saved several women from being hanged. But Proctor,...
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