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The Crucible

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  • October 27, 2010
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CRUCIBLE INTRODUCTIONARY NOTES

The crucible by Arthur Miller, is a play that deals with conflicts involved in the Salem witch trials of 1692. The characters in Miller’s theocratic society are not only in conflict with their environment, but with each other and their religious authority.

John Proctor sacrifices his life as he battles his individual conscience, guilt and the authority of the church.

In his play, Miller shows that when an individual questions the dominant values of a society in which he or she lives, tragic conflict can occur. John Proctor’s personal values of reason and factual truth come into conflict with Salem’s dominant values of community harmony and conformity. There are many layers of conflict present in the play. Miller, in his introductory notes, describes the citizens of Salem as a ‘sect of fanatics’ suffering from inter personal conflict in the form of long held hatred, land-lust, revenge, suspicion and envy. As a group they are in constant conflict with the harsh land, the heathen and the devil, whom they believed to be lurking everywhere. John Proctor is in conflict with the religious authority in the form of Reverend Parris who appears more interested in saving money than souls.

Miller demonstrates the way that small, seemingly incidental conflict can quickly escalate into major and catastrophic conflict with devastating consequences. He shows what an atmosphere fuelled by hysteria can create and the destructive forces that humans possess when they instinctively try to protect themselves. Miller also shows us the futile and petty nature of prejudice and he criticises the actions taken by those who punish others who are different from them.

The people of Salem were Puritans which meant that they emphasised the majesty and sovereignty of G-d and that a concern for the morality of others was an inextricable part of their theology. In Puritan society observance of rank was of the utmost significance. The husband was...