Why Is the Crucible so Called

Topics: Salem witch trials, The Crucible, John Proctor Pages: 6 (2318 words) Published: October 8, 1999
How is ‘The Crucible’ appropriately titled?

The word ‘crucible’ is used by Arthur Miller in his play as a metaphor. The first definition of the word crucible is: a melting pot especially for metals. In the play this is first acknowledged during the first act, as we gradually piece together the information concerning the girls dancing. The ‘kettle’ viewed by Reverend Parris mirrors a crucible. We are told that the girls had made a brew which contained a little frog and blood is therefore viewed by the characters involved as a potent, fearsome mixture and this signifies the beginning of the Salem tragedy. It seems that from this ‘brew’ a more sinister force is released. The dancing and the contents of the little pot seem to fuel the rumours, lies and tragedy of Salem. From this point onwards, lies which in turn arouse suspicion ending ultimately in the destruction of the Salem community. Even in the next part of the play we observe Tituba create and elaborate lies which is the first we see of the evil which is unleashed by the witch hunt. There was very little privacy in Salem mainly because the fact that it was a theocracy and crimes were an offence not only against God but also against the community. Therefore there was pressure for neighbours to reveal other’s sin. The desire for privacy makes one suspect others because if they do not convict others it looks as if they themselves might have something to hide. It is ironic that Reverend Parris says that the witchcraft investigation might reveal the source of all the community’s problems ‘Why, Rebecca, we may open up the boil of all our troubles today’ because in the end the witchcraft investigation provokes the burning down and destruction of the community.

The witch trials are also metaphorically a melting pot, again, for people’s grudges, and their seeking of revenge. The play shows us also how people can give into their fear and superstition. The trials are not really about witchcraft, Abigail admits to John in private how the witchery is a hoax ‘We were dancing in the woods last night and my uncle leaped out on us. She took fright, is all’. As she says this she is confident and relates the situation with a wicked air of control. This not to say people in Salem do not believe in the supernatural. Although many people in The Crucible believe in witches, many Salem residents simply take advantage of the trials to express long held grudges and to achieve their revenge on their enemies. It is a melting pot of suspicion and vengeance with nearly everyone trying to pull power out of the pot. The Salem community was rife with latent hostilities and the witch trials provided an outlet for the expression of those hostilities in a society which had little opportunity for speaking out. The society was so confined and ordered so when people had a small chance to experience freedom they went to far to the other extreme and suspicions and envy burst into revenge. Individual disputes were considered immoral because they meant ‘breaking charity’ with’s one neighbours. There was much unexpressed, unexpiated guilt in the community. For example Abigail had a grudge against Elizabeth Proctor because Elizabeth fired her after she discovered that Abigail was having an affair with her husband, John Proctor. Abigail used the witchcraft craze to accuse Elizabeth and have her sent to jail.

The purpose of a crucible is to melt things in and for this you need very high temperatures. This is illustrated in the play, when the judge Danforth says to Proctor in Act Three ‘We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment’. The court scenes were times of tension, intensity, pressure and conflicts between powerful authority refusing to realise they have signed away innocent lives on the strength of a lie. Also things are permanently and...
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