Arthur Miller has a great and opinionated mind. In writing The Crucible – an acknowledged classic of modern theater, he has unveiled the things that are often required of life for a human’s survival; betrayal, mendacity, inequity and deception – the works of the devil. Miller has re-told of a tragedy of witchcraft trials in the town of Salem, Massachusetts which occurred during the seventeenth-century. During this period the practice of an intensely puritanical form of religion pervaded the atmosphere and made life very difficult and unpleasant.
The trials were encompassed and dramatized by mass frenzy. Miller was aware of the witchcraft hysteria in Salem, yet it had remained incomprehensible to him for many years, until he witnessed and experienced, personally, a modern parallel to the power of evil and the evil of power. Between the years of 1950-1954 Joseph McCarthy, an American Senator presided over the investigations of the Senate Committee on Internal Security. The purpose of this committee was to identify individuals who held sympathetic views or confirmed views of communism.
Joseph McCarthy wanted to intern all alleged Communists and force them to confess their offences and identify other known communists, similar to the Witchcraft predicament. Arthur Miller himself was called before the Investigating Committee and was subjected to interrogation about his political views. He was asked to name communists he had spoken with nine years previous in a meeting. Miller honorably did not identify any other names and was deemed to be in contempt of court. Consequently, he received a 30 day jail sentence which was suspended and a fine of 500 dollars.
Miller appealed against this successfully. It is evident there are close parallels between Millers own personal experience and that of John Proctor. Miller sees himself suffering in the same way John Proctor did by being identified in the community as an outcast. Miller’s personal experience added passion into the way he wrote the Crucible. As a story, the Crucible is a reflection of Miller’s own life. Act four significantly identifies the religious paranoia that existed within the town of Salem – A strict Christian community, fearful of anything to do with evil.
Any sinner, whom doesn’t beg for forgiveness and remain in the love of Jesus, is seen as an outcast. The community thrived on every further accusation being made, the more unexpected a person was, for example, Rebecca Nurse, the more passion and drama increased, and so did the evil, lurking around Salem – unbeknown to the people. John Proctor plays a very important role in the play; through Miller’s introduction we can have a clear image of John Proctor. The first impressions the reader develops of John Proctor is a man of decency and moral.
The reader can acknowledge and identify with John Proctor as the strong, self-governing and powerful-bodied character that he was. “The steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul, he is a sinner against the moral fashion of time and against his own judgment of decent conduct” – (Page 16, Millers own introduction to John. ) Proctor was a respected man, perhaps a feared man, he could “make a fool see his foolishness” within an instance of being in John’s company. People of the village may have felt inferior to him; he mattered, although he had no authority.
– People liked to know that John Proctor was on their side. John was friendly with most of the characters mentioned in the book, apart from a minority; Putnam, and occasionally disagreements with Parris. Proctor knew how to wined people up, he knew how to make them feel small, and I think this is one of the reasons why people were taken in by his character. The opening scene of Act Four commences with stage directions. At this point, Proctor has been imprisoned on suspicion of Witchcraft.
“A cell in Salem jail that fall, the place is in darkness but for the moonlight” – Miller uses stage directions to make his audience aware of the poor living conditions John is suffering as a consequence of his honorable intentions and pleads to the High Courts to free his wife. As it draws closer to the morning of John’s death, serious discussion about the whereabouts of Abigail Williams takes place. John had committed the sin of adultery with Abigail Williams, his previous servant girl. When John is first introduced, he has been faithful to his wife, Elizabeth, for the past seven months.
But the play’s first act finds him momentarily alone with his former lover, the teenage Abigail. Although he restrains himself, Proctor is still fascinated by Abigail “Ah, you’re wicked yet, aren’t you? ” he says to her, “his smile widening. ” Abigail Williams is the niece of Rev. Parris, one can only imagine her to be strikingly beautiful, and she would have to be it seems to tempt a man like John Proctor. Abigail Williams is a less complex character than John, whose motivations are simple; she is sly, cold-hearted and with straightforward malicious motivation.
Miller establishes that Abigail is suspected of adultery with John Proctor, a rumor that is confirmed later in the first act, while Abigail physically threatens the other girls if they disobey her. Abigail demonstrates a great ability for self-preservation: she admits what she must at appropriate times, and places the blame for her actions at the most convenient source, Tituba, when she realizes that it is the savviest course of action. Abigail’s lack of any morality renders her willingness and ability to charge others with witchery no matter the consequences.
With this knowledge of Abbey, one feels sorry for John that he has been taken in by this bitter girl. This is because of the effects that she alone, has caused, not only towards John mentally, but towards a whole village of people. From the point of Elizabeth know of the affair, she has been very weary of Abigail and become more aware of the evil the young girl is capable of. Nevertheless, his wife, Elizabeth (Goody Proctor) had forgiven him, partially to save scandal and treatment of contempt from the people of Salem.
– I have come to this comprehension of the issue because of the distrustful but perhaps necessary manner she talks to John with. The audience senses this during the early scenes of the book, Miller creates this effect by the dialogue Elizabeth and John share, allowing the readers to feel and be aware of the anxiety, and unease between the two. (Page 41) “You were alone with Abigail? ” She still has her suspicions and has “suddenly lost faith in him” as he replies “Aye, for a moment”
The dialogue displays that John and Elizabeth must have been more intimate as man and wife before the affair because even 6 months later, it still has such a powerful effect on their marriage. It has shaped a wedge between the two. John is genuinely sorrowful and regretful, yet he can’t find it in his own heart to forgive himself, due to “the magistrate in his heart” as Elizabeth refers to it as. This is part of John’s nature, but when his wife, whom he loves dearly, does not show warmth towards him, he is not encouraged to show self forgiveness, or to feel at one with himself – “Spare me!
You forget nothin’ and forgive nothin’ I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart! ” He wants to share the intimacy they once had, he will do anything to please Elizabeth, by doing so, and he is tending to his guilty conscience. – And this is one of the humanly qualities that readers recognize and find attractive to John. An audience can become fond of a person like John Proctor, because they long to be like him and can recognize, perhaps find themselves in a similar situation to him – giving into temptation.
However, the reader can recognize the acts of sorrow John makes – forever trying to please his wife – “I think you’re sad again, are you? ” and resisting Abigail “I’ll cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you , put it out of mind Abby. ” – Act One, Page 18 and 42. Miller very wisely displays John’s character as “Only Human” by exposing the modern day human weaknesses. This heightens the emotion and tension of the climax of John’s death and the audience’s reaction to this.