Arthur Miller was born in New York City on October 17, 1915. Miller composed The Crucible in the early 1950’s and it used the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692 as a response to the anti-communist “witch hunts” to which miller was accused of. Miller believed that the madness surrounding the witchcraft trials was similar to McCarthy’s mission to terminate communism. The Crucible is set in a government ruled by a religious authority, in which the church and state are one. The major theme of The Crucible is reputation because various characters base their actions on protecting their reputation. In The Crucible, characterization promotes the theme.
Major characters in The Crucible are John Proctor, Reverend Hale, Elizabeth Proctor, and Abigail Williams. John Proctor’s fear of loosing his good reputation enables him to give Abigail enough time to complete her revenge. Even though Proctor is a “strong man”, as said by Abigail, he has a secret that he is frightened to confess. His lust for Abigail leads to their affair, creating Abigail’s hate and jealousy of John’s wife, Elizabeth. Being a proud man, whose priority is reputation he only admits to the affair once his wife, Elizabeth, is accused by Abigail He than continues on to call Abigail “nothing but a whore”. As the play progresses, John is more concerned with his honor and reputation, that he refuses to sign his name in guilt.
Another major character is Abigail. She manipulates everyone knowing that they will care for their reputation. The villain inside her allows her to accomplish awful things with out worry of her reputation. . She is driven by sexual desire, and no matter what it takes, she wants to be with John. She feels very powerful being able to speak in the court and get revenge on everyone she dislikes. She leads the girls of the village into her vengeance, and succeeds in her plan only because she was given the opportunity.
The other major characters are Reverend Hale and Elizabeth Proctor. Reverend Hale tries to encourage people to confess, but as the play progresses he becomes convinced that Abigail is deceiving everyone. By noticing that Proctor and Mary are telling the truth he tries to warn the village, but no one believes him. Although he recognizes the evil in the witch trials he gives up instead of doing something to change things. Finally there is Elizabeth Proctor who is a religious woman who dismisses Abigail as her servant after she finds out about her affair with Proctor. Elizabeth is very worried about her reputation and that oh her baby, but she ends up not being condemned.
Minor characters in the play have a certain purpose in promoting the theme. Reverend Parris and Judge Hathorne both bring their prejudice into the court and influence Danforth into punishing those who they believe are possessed. Mary is honest and has good intentions, but when she is faced with the decision of being against the court, she lies for her status. All the girls who contributed to the blaming were simply trying to get vengeance on those they disliked. By allowing them to achieve this power, the court and the community was torn apart.
The theme reputation is represented well by all the characters, especially Abigail and Proctor. Several parallels exist between the McCarthyism witch-hunt and the characteristics that Miller illustrates in The Crucible, including the intolerance, and excessive zeal. The Puritan belief of feeling of community is not something that the people of Salem share because their community is worn to shreds by simple lies. A Puritan belief that is well represented in The Crucible is that of determination. The character Abigail is very determined and she will do whatever it takes to reach her ambition. Man’s evil nature is also illustrated properly in Salem. They are blamed for worshiping the devil and witchcraft. In The Crucible Miller’s concern is not whether the accused actually are witches, but rather the refusal of the court officials to believe that they are not.
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