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The Crucible - Arthur Miller
What is it about?Set in Salem USA in 1692, The Crucible tells the story of John Proctor,
and the consequences of his affair with a girl named Abigail. Abigail is convinced that John
Proctor loves her, and so sets out to get rid of his wife by accusing her as a witch.
This occurs amongst a frenzy of women accusing other women of being witches, and mass
panic as a result of their strict puritan religion. The residents are convinced that the Devil is
among them, and are sending innocent women to death as a result of this.
• Religion: The entire town are strict puritans, constantly engrossed in prayer. "They
did not celebrate Christmas, and a holiday from work meant only that they must
concentrate even more upon prayer."
• Fear: The witch trials occur as a result of fear, as no one wants to be accused
themselves, and so they accuse other people without evidence. There is both the
fear of being accused of being a witch, and the genuine fear of witches themselves.
• Manipulation: Abigail gains power over Elizabeth as Elizabeth knows that she will
name her as a witch, she manipulates religion, and the fear of the people, for her
own personal gain. John Proctor knows this. He is a highly religious man, yet he
seems to be the only one who can see that it is being used as a weapon against
innocent women.
Context:The enitre play is a metaphor for 1950s America, a time in which people
were being accused of being communists, and deported from the country without trial, or
evidence. Miller wrote the play out of frustration as he felt that the fear of the people was
getting out of hand, the same way that it did in the Salem witch trials.
Struggle for identity:The protagonist John Proctor struggles for his identity as a
religious man, as he observes it being used as a weapon to accuse innocent women of
witchcraft. He feels isolated from his town, as he is more rational than others, and can see
the manipulation that is occuring.
This reflects Miller's personal struggle for identity, as he feels isolated from American society
due to McCarthy and the communist hysteria.
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