During the 1950's, McCarthyism and the Red Scare dominated society and culture, instilling the terror and suspicions of an invisible enemy on an uninformed people. This enemy was that of communism. Written to alert society of the doom that lurked nearby, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, depicts the consequences that come from the hysteria associated with accusations made against one's neighbor and in some cases friend. From the play, one can gather that guilt in society is destructive to communal relationships. The evidence that supports this truism is embedded many times throughout the play and certainly strengthens the play's central theme.
Beginning in act one, the conflict is set as Parris first becomes involved in the impending hysteria. Parris cannot believe that witchcraft had taken place "in [his] house". Knowing that the townspeople "will topple" (16; act one) his reputation, Parris desperately tries to point his guilt in other directions. His concern is directly related to his niece, Abigail Williams, who happens to be the alleged witch. As the truth begins to emerge, Abigail denies her involvement in the witchcraft and passes the blame to their helpless servant, Tituba.
Act two further solidifies the theme of guilt by presenting John Proctor's affair with their former housekeeper, Abigail. Elizabeth Proctor is certainly not the warmest character in the story, but she is certainly able to witness John turn from her during her ailment. Elizabeth believes that John "[is] somewhat ashamed," (62; act two) for her presence during the affair was always close by. When Hale comes to question John about Elizabeth, he questions their faith. Ironically, during a series of questions, John fails to name all ten of the commandments. The commandment that slips his mind is that of adultery, which Elizabeth reminds him of. While providing a nervous and sly smile, John states that "between the two of us we do know them all," (67; act two) hoping to better his...
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