How do Act 1 and Act 2 develop the various characters in the play? The play ‘The Crucible’ written by Arthur Miller is an allegorical reference to the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Set in the historical context of the 17th century Salem, this play explores several themes to point out how politics, greed and imaginative hysteria can tear a community apart. To further emphasize this, Miller uses different characters and develops them as the play progresses. In addition, his use of effective language intensifies the role of characters like John and Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams, Reverend Parris and many others in the play. The first act of the play is an exposition act which reveals all the primary characters and conflicts in the play. The play begins with Reverend Parris – a minister of the church – praying for his daughter Betty “He mumbles, then seems about to weep; then he weeps, then prays again”. Through the continuous weeping of Parris, Miller indicates to the readers that he is a weak character. In the Puritan society, ‘God’s law was the law’ and so the Bible was the truth. In that context, Parris, a minister, does commit a sin as he was praying in vain. Yet, it is only on the surface the Parris appears to be an anxious and worried father. Though he does inform the doctor and also calls for Reverend Hale, Miller implies that it is his reputation that Parris is most worried about, not his family’s welfare. He fears that Betty, Abigail and the others were engaging in witchcraft in the woods and his first concern is not the endangerment to their souls or the sin they have committed. Instead, he is troubled by the effect of the scandal on his reputation as seen in Parris’ reply to Putnam “Thomas, Thomas, I pray you, leap not to witchcraft…they will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house.” Through this, Miller aims to give the readers an insight to the mass hysteria of the period – during the 17th and early 18th centuries, thousands were executed as witches. -------------------------------------------------
Furthermore, Miller portrays Parris as a suspicious character with a strong sense of paranoia. . While he is questioning Abigail, he clearly mentions that members of the community will make use of a moral transgression and ruin him “I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it”. Parris’s anxiety about the insecurity of his office reveals the extent to which conflicts divide the Salem community - not even those individuals who society believes are invested with God’s will can control the whim of the populace. Yet, it is Parris’ economic greed that has brought the citizens’ resentment towards him. As a pastor, Miller mentions, his primary concern is personal aggrandizement - he strives for monetary compensation, including the deed to the preacher's house and expensive candlesticks. Through this, Miller explores the theme of human greed. -------------------------------------------------
Parris’ niece, Abigail Williams, represents the individualism in the Puritan society. From the start of the play, the readers become aware of Abigail’s creativity as she is an effective convincer. While defending her reputation, she questions Parris “Do you begrudge my bed, uncle?”, using emotional outburst as a tool to persuade her uncle. Yet, Miller also shows this 17 year old as authoritative as she tells the other girls to simply “tell them we danced”. However, Abigail’s tainted image due to her rumored affair with Proctor is used as a context by Miller to indicate to the readers that she will do anything to preserve her reputation, like her uncle. As part of that anything, she becomes physically violent slapping Betty “Shut it! Now shut it!”. Additionally, she also threatens Mary Warren “I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down.” Thus, Miller emphasizes the theme of ‘ignorance vs wisdom’ through this character as Abigail completely ignores the possibility of not telling...
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