AP Lang 1
12 October 2010
The Many Lies in Salem
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a tragic play set in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, where Miller uses the Salem Trials as a metaphor for the 1950s McCarthy hearings. In Salem, people value their good names. The Puritan community acts as a theocracy in which there appears to be no right to privacy, and people must conform to a strict moral code. The theme of reputation, lying, and deceit are shown in Abigail, John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Mary Warren, and other characters. In the play’s dialogue, Miller uses Biblical allusions, situational irony, and dramatic irony to develop these themes.
The play is extremely ironic because when people tell lies they escape punishment, but when people tell the truth they tend to get punished. Those who confess to worshiping the devil are not penalized, while those who tell the truth and say they do not worship the devil are executed. As author Jean-Marie Bonnet says, “There is never any palpable evidence of anything throughout the play, and each individual is required to tell a lie if he wants to save his life.” Everything in the play relies on language and the character’s dialogue. There seems to be no hard evidence to prove any sort of witchcraft was practiced in Salem. The judges base their decisions on the false accusations Abigail makes and other stories the town tells.
Abigail, a young unmarried orphan acts as the villain of the play. The prose describes Abigail as having “an endless capacity for dissembling”(Miller 1238). When Abigail’s uncle, Reverend Parris, questions her about why Elizabeth Proctor fired her as a servant, she lies and says, “I would not be her slave” (Miller 1240). Later the reader discovers Elizabeth has fired Abigail because she had an affair with her husband, John Proctor. Abigail acts innocent and respectful for Reverend Parris; but when she is around John Proctor, she becomes wild and tries to entice him. One...