The Crucible Coursework Essay
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How does Miller use the development of characters and their interaction with others to build tension in the second half of Act 3, culminating in Proctor denouncing God? Arthur Asher Miller, October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005; An American playwright and essayist who became a renowned figure and came to the forefront of American literature within American literary circles. Miller was not born in to a highly-educated family, his father being illiterate, yet Miller always had a passion and interest in writing this was evident as he went on to study journalism at the University of Michigan.
Having studied journalism and worked for the student newspaper began to develop a more politically and socially aware mentality and attitude within society. During his time studying journalism, Miller wrote his first major literary piece “No Villain”. Miller was also mentored and assisted in his literature by Professor Kenneth Rowe who directed Millers early work. Miller later switched his major to English and won the Avery Hopwood Award for “No Villain”. Miller subsequently had many major plays published such as “All My Sons”, “Death of a Salesman”, and “The Crucible”.
“The Crucible” was particularly controversial, as it was published in 1953 during the McCarthy era and was directly inspired by and related to this hysteric period. The McCarthy era in America took place from approximately the late 1940’s to the late 1950’s, and was a period in which the capitalist American’s feared an “imminent” yet unapparent threat from the communist Russian’s; Senator Joseph McCarthy headed the mass hysteria surrounding the communist threat from Russia.
Having established the “House Committee on Un-American Activities”, and implemented a sense of authority and fear surrounding this committee, McCarthy began to persecute many people, making false allegations against many innocent Americans ranging from the working class to those with celebrity status; creating a feeling of threat and anxiety amongst American society, fearing that there were communists successfully infiltrating the American capitalist social system. Miller found himself before the “House Committee on Un-American Activities” and drew many comparisons between the Salem witch trials and the trial in which he found himself. Having further researched further the Salem witch trials Miller decided to write “The Crucible” which mirrored the almost immature and nave hysteria surrounding the communist threat.
In this essay I will focus on the Court room scene in the second half of Act 3 in “The Crucible”. I feel this scene draws many parallels with the manner of the McCarthy trials; the manipulative and biased nature of the judge, who seems to twist the situations which present themselves during the trial for his own benefit, and to maintain his status rather than to implement justice and in the case of “The Crucible”; in accordance with the “righteousness” or justice according to the laws stated in the Bible which was pivotal in Puritan society.
Also the mass hysteria surrounding the Salem witch trials, and the fear surrounding demonic, satanic forces acting amongst their strict Christian based civilization, reflected the hysteria and fear in America regarding communism. Miller uses the interaction of characters, language and dramatic devices such as dramatic irony and stage directions to help inform the actors and director to better convey Millers message to the audience.
“The Crucible” is set in seventeenth century (1692) Salem, Massachusetts, and based within newly established society, consisting of a group of English immigrants who followed a strict Christian belief system, known as Puritanism. Puritans believed in the supreme reign of God within the life of each individual and the purity of one’s self and the church as a whole. They believed the bible was the absolute truth, and instruction in how a person should lead their life – and the supreme law above which there was no other.
Puritans also claimed to directly take their views on gender within their society from the bible; regarding the deception and corruption of Eve descended to all women and this resorted to a hierarchal system being implemented within the church. One example being the way in which full membership to the church was granted; to become a full member of the church the person seeking membership had to share a “conversion experience” or an experience in which God’s grace had worked in their souls, men were able to testify this verbally and gain membership however women were not permitted to speak in church until 1636 and as a result had to write and submit their experience in order to gain full membership.
This shows the inequality and corruption entwined within what appeared to be a society, structured completely on the values in the Bible, which clearly states that the human race, regardless of gender, is equal. This one example highlights the capitalist, selfish undertones of Puritan society in which those in positions of power are interested in their own benefits. Acts of frivolity, dancing and alcohol etc. were not approved in Puritan civilization and were deemed demonic.