What lies deep down in the Crucible characters that not everyone can see? The former husband of Marilyn Monroe managed to keep one aspect of his life private from the media for over four decades. Was it because of shame, selfishness, or fear? The Crucible is based on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Miller has read all about the Witch Trials, but has never really understood it until he read the book published by Charles W. Upham, the mayor of Salem at that time (“Why I Wrote The Crucible”). He knew right away that he had to write about that time period. Even though the play provides an accurate representation of the trials, the truth lies in Arthur Miller’s past history.
Pursuing this further, Arthur Miller has hidden a life-long secret that recently has come out. When his son, Daniel was born, Miller was very happy, but immediately knew something was wrong. The doctors had diagnosed the baby with Down syndrome. He was the son of Miller’s third wife, Inge Morath. Miller said. “I’m going to have to put the baby away”, but Inge wanted to keep him (“Arthur Miller’s Missing Act”). Within days the baby was gone. They sent him to one of the Connecticut institutions for the mentally retarded. Inge went to see him every day, but Arthur never wanted to set eyes on him. Afterwards, nothing was mentioned of Daniel. He was cut out from Miller’s life. Was it because of selfishness, or fear that the world will know?
His personal story seems to contradict his theme in The Crucible. Through the character Abigail Williams, we can see that people are willing to give up and abandon their connection with their own values in order to protect themselves. Just as Abigail hid the fact that she had an affair with John Proctor, Arthur Miller has hidden the fact that he also had a brief affair with Marilyn Monroe.
Abigail William is the girl who leads this play into disaster. She is most responsible for the meeting in the woods and when Paris finds out, she tries to conceal it as fast as possible, because if she reveals that she has cast a spell on Elizabeth, it will reveal the affair she had with Elizabeth’s husband, John Proctor. To protect herself from future punishment that may come, she starts to accuse others of witchcraft. By telling lies, that is how she manipulates the whole town into believing that she is innocent (Miller 114-115). Abigail is independent and she knows that nothing is out of her grasp. Once she finds herself attracted to Proctor, she won’t suppress her desires that she wants him. However many times she reviews her memories, the more she is sure that she is the ideal wife for John. The only thing in the way is Elizabeth.
Declaring witchcraft among the majority will keep the secret out of reach. She uses this to create fear and intimidation among the townsmen people. The only reason her evil little plan is working is that the girls have got her back. She has threatened them with violence if they refuse to do as she says. “Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. …
And I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!” (Miller 20). In order to get Proctor, she must eliminate Elizabeth and choose her individuals she will accuse wisely. She thinks nothing of the fact that the individuals will be hanged based upon her accusation. When she sees her plan failing, she will react the same by not showing any signs of fear. She has condemned Proctor to hang and flees right away from the town, leaving all the action well behind.
John Proctor is the protagonist of the play, while Abigail is the antagonist. One of his flaws is his temper. Proctor leads to shouting and even physical violence. There are occasions in the play where he threatens to whip his wife, servant, and even his ex-mistress, Abigail. He was the average good man, who owned a farm and was respected by everyone he knew. He had three children a good wife to raise a family with and all was well until Abigail came into his life. At first Abigail was the housekeeper, who has quietly come into the life of Proctor. He must have been tempted by her fiery personality, which he cannot resist. This affair only happened, because at that time Elizabeth was sick, which allowed Abigail to make her first move. John may have also been attracted to Abigail’s personality shown in Act 1. She tells John that the witchcraft isn’t true and that the girls were just having a party with Tituba. “PROCTOR, his smile widening: Ah, you’re wicked aren’t y’! You’ll be clapped in the stocks before you’re twenty” (Miller 22). From this line we can conclude that Proctor is charmed by Abigail’s naughty tricks.
The temper of John Proctor ties into the anger of Arthur Miller towards the McCarthy hearings. The Crucible relates to the McCarthy hearings, because Arthur Miller claimed to have written The Crucible to criticize the theme, while many people saw the resemblance between the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy Hearings. Just like McCarthy, the people of Salem were not interested in facts; instead, they took their hatred towards the people of their community. Miller himself was brought to the House of Un-American Activities Committee and was falsely accused of Communism. (“Fear as Governance: Arthur Miller The Crucible as Contemporary Reflection”).
For the first two acts we see John doing little effect to the play. However, when Act 3 comes into play, he is there to protect his wife. He has three weapons that he can use against the court. First is Abigail’s admission that there was no witchcraft, proof from Mary Warren that the girls were faking, and the fact that he had an affair with Abigail. All this declines in the favor of Abigail. He only ends up ruining his name and getting himself condemned for witchcraft.
The only way to save him from being hanged is by admitting that he is with the Devil and that he justifies that he was a bad person anyway. Horror struck when asked to sign his name. By signing his name he believed he will be signing his soul away. Even though, he is so close to being free once again, he refuses to sign his name. He says, “I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs.” (Miller 144).
At first we may believe that The Crucible is just a story about witch trials that took place in Salem, but by paying a greater attention to the minor details we can understand that the book has another meaning to it. Every detail can be connected to Arthur’s personal life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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