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The words that Abby use draw attention to the frigidity of Elizabeth stand in direct contrast to the words of heat and warmth used previously in the flirtatious dialogue between herself and John. The common room of the Proctors house is described as being “low” and “dark”. The room lacks any sort of homeliness and comfort to it. We gain this impression when Miller writes, ‘the room is empty’ and is described as “rather long,” maybe showing the coldness and distance between the couple.
Another way in which we can see the difference between Elizabeth and John is when Miller writes ‘at the right is a door opening on the fields outside. A fireplace is at the left’ this shows the contrast between them as we can relate John to the fields as he works outside all day, as he is a farmer. We can also see Elizabeth’s side when the reader is told of ‘a fire place’ the reader associates the fireplace to warmth and homeliness and therefore to Elizabeth.
We link this to Elizabeth as fireplaces are found indoors. After realising this, Miller uses further dialogue to make this contrast between them more visible. We can see how the couple would like each other to change, for instance John says, ‘you ought to bring some flowers in the house,’ showing perhaps that he wants her to be more at ease with his presence, as in the description for the set the reader is told of nothing from the outdoors.
This meaning there is no sign of John in the house.
Elizabeth may also want John to do the same, as she complains about him not being at the house early enough, saying ‘I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon’ which also shows that she doesn’t entirely trust him, because he might meet Abigail. As John enters the house “Elizabeth is heard softly singing to the children,” showing the audience a compassionate, warm and motherly side to her. This is very different to the side that Abigail had led us to believe, describing her as a ‘cold, snivelling woman.
‘ This makes the audience uncertain of what Elizabeth is really like and therefore opens us as the audience to question what she is really like. In the first scene in which Elizabeth and John are put together, Miller shows us some of the apprehension and unease around John and Elizabeth’s relationship. For instance, John adds more salt to Elizabeth’s soup but doesn’t tell her he has done so and then complements her because it’s ‘well seasoned. ‘ This could be seen as a nice thing to do, as he obviously doesn’t want to upset her. However, there is still the deception there.
Also if he had a standard, honest and secure relationship with her he wouldn’t have made such a big deal out of it. We gain a sense of un-ease from the stage directions as they are all very small and precise, for example ‘going to the table’ and ‘she sits and watches him eat. ‘ Also, throughout the entrance to act two, the Proctors never make eye contact. From what John and Elizabeth say to each other we can determine how they feel about their relationship and each other. A good illustration of this is when John declares to Elizabeth that ‘an everlasting funeral marches round your heart.
‘ It’s a really strong reaction and he uses an extraordinarily morbid metaphor. Not only is it a rather melancholic metaphor but John also infers that it’s going to last for ever, as a funeral is where bodies are put to rest. However this funeral is everlasting, meaning it shall never be put to rest. From this, the audience can interpret that John feels that Elizabeth is a rather bitter and unforgiving person. Similarly, when Elizabeth says ‘the magistrate that sits in your heart judges you,’ we can surmise that she feels John may run too much by his own moral standard, and perhaps that he is too hard on himself.
It could also be interpreted as a complement, saying that his high moral standards are an attribute. The audience again gets a feel that there is a tension between John and Elizabeth, but this time it’s because of their strenuous effort to design an atmosphere which is that of a happy and loving couple, which is clearly failing. The audience obtains this ambience largely from Elizabeth, who answers in short and brisk answers, even when John tries to charm her, by saying things like ‘lilacs are the smell of night fall, I think.
Massachusetts is a beauty in the spring!. ‘ To which Elizabeth replies ‘aye, it is. ‘ This shows her lack of interest and her determination not to forgive John. We again see the contrast of the outdoors and the indoors and John and Elizabeth. Throughout Act 2, we see John as this elemental and earthy person, for example when he says things like ‘it’s as warm as blood beneath the clods. ‘ He also wants her to walk with him on the farm, again suggesting he wants her to accept him more.
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