Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Themes in 'The Crucible'

If you order your research paper from our custom writing service you will receive a perfectly written assignment on Themes in 'The Crucible'. What we need from you is to provide us with your detailed paper instructions for our experienced writers to follow all of your specific writing requirements. Specify your order details, state the exact number of pages required and our custom writing professionals will deliver the best quality paper right on time.
Out staff of freelance writers includes over 120 experts proficient in Themes in 'The Crucible', therefore you can rest assured that your assignment will be handled by only top rated specialists. Order your paper at affordable prices with livepaperhelp.com!


The Pressure Cooker

A woman walks into her kitchen to finish her daily task of canning a batch of peas. Without thinking she simply pops the top of her pressure cooker. Within seconds peas and glass lay strewn about on the kitchen floor, and the lady is sprawled out in the floor with severe burns. All this occurs because the lady does not recognize the signs of built up pressure in the pot. The famous play 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller “is patterned in a detail and accurate manner upon the historical records of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1620(Schlueter and Flanagan ). The name of the play itself serves as a window into the town of Salem in 1620; the word crucible means a container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures and violent pressures, much like the town itself. The town has been pushed to the absolute maximum pressure point and then it explodes. Arthur Miller uses many themes throughout the play to dramatize this explosion of sorts. These themes set the mood and describe what is happening to a once peaceful town. 'The Crucible' has many themes that are used to develop the central idea of the play that all beings have a “melting” point.

One important theme in 'The Crucible' is the role that hysteria plays in tearing apart the Salem court system. The play powerfully dramatizes the hysteria that swept through Salem in the form of a fear that Satan was possessing the town. Hysteria supersedes logic and enables people to believe that their neighbors, whom they have always considered worthy people, are committing insane and unbelievable crimes. The same neighbors they once borrowed sugar and creme from are now communing with the devil, killing babies, and committing other heinous crimes. Abigail Williams has a love affair with John Proctor. Proctor realizes what he has done is wrong and tries to end the affair, Abigail is not happy about this. She turns her feelings for Proctor and his wife into an obsession. She will stop at nothing to get him back, including starting a revolutionary hunt. Abigail turns her own wishes into “a genuine visionary hysteria”(Porter). The people are feeding off one another. “What [is seen] is not just ‘mass’ but institutionalized hysteria . . . While the girls seem genuinely beside themselves, the outcome of their actions looks so very calculated . . . [There is] that strange dual impression of . . . factors . . . mysteriously beyond control . . . and an outcome at once monstrous”(qtd. in Griffin). “The only person in The Crucible who believes herself to be a witch is Tituba,” but hysteria grows so rapidly that “the true martyrs of Salem [have] the consolation of knowing that they were innocent.”(Popkin). In the end, hysteria can thrive only because people benefit from it. It suspends the rules of daily life and allows the acting out of every dark desire and hateful urge under the cover of righteousness. In The Crucible, the townsfolk accept and become active in the hysterical climate primarily out of genuine religious tradition.

Reputation is a tremendously important theme in 'The Crucible', where public and private moralities are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly brutal. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their friends and family will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigails increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughters coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit. Meanwhile, the protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished. He fights against bringing “dishonor to his name,” for by doing this he would bring “social death to himself and his sons”(Schlueter and Flanagan). Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. Proctor is considered, “a common man capable of uncommon moral strength”(Schlueter and Flanagan). At the end of the play, however, Proctors desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement. Because it is my name! ...Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How can I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! he cries to Danforth in Act IV(Miller). By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his earlier affair and dies with integrity. Reputation is a driving force in the explosion of pressure in Salem.

essay writing service


Another theme used in the play 'The Crucible' is intolerance. 'The Crucible' is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are one, and the religion is a strict, forbidding form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. Because of the theocratic nature of the society, moral laws and state laws are one and the same; sin and the status of an individuals soul are matters of public concern. There is no room for divergence from social norms, since any individual whose private life doesnt conform to the established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good but also to the rule of God and true religion. There is no room for individual opinion because, “anyone who tries to introduce . . . the voice of reason is likely to be held in contempt”(Warshow). In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil; opposition is not merely unlawful, it is associated with satanic activity. This classification functions as the underlying logic behind the witch trials. As Danforth says in Act III, a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there is no road between(Miller). The witch trials are the ultimate expression of intolerance and hanging witches is the ultimate means of restoring the communitys purity. The trials label all social degenerates with the taint of devil-worship and thus demand their elimination from the community. Intolerance is one of the essential driving strengths in 'The Crucible'.

Another theme that Miller uses in his play is vengeance. “The method[s] . . . figures like Abigail and the Putnams [use] to gain control over the frightened, the gullible, and the weak-willed [are] indeed diabolical”(Moss). Men and women of the town such as Ann and Thomas Putnam are seeking vengeance through the Trials, Goody Putnam for her lost children and Thomas for the children and his land disputes with Giles Corey. The girls are in love with the men and boys of the town, and that is what they are trying to gain from these inaccurate accusations. As one writer puts it, “the world goes mad . . . and [the cause of it is] the vengeance of a little girl”(Griffin). As these false accusations are made, Dansforth and Parris believe the girls, despite Reverend Hale and John Proctor’s objections, but Dansforth does not want to reverse his previous guilty verdicts, because it could tarnish his name as a court judge in a sense. Abigail’s hysterical acts toward Proctor and Elizabeth come from the jealousy she has toward Elizabeth because of Proctor. She feels she can retaliate against her by making false accusations toward her. “It [is] that Abigail Williams . . . had a short time earlier been the house servant of the Proctors and now was crying out Elizabeth Proctor as a witch; ...she [is] refusing to include John Proctor . . . despite the [pressing] of the prosecutors” because she still has feelings for him and wants Proctor to herself (Martin). Proctor warns the others that “vengeance is walking in Salem . . . We are what we always were in Salem, but not the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the laws”(Miller). Abigail uses her power to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, so in turn, Abigail has Proctor to herself. Vengeance is the motive the girls have in accusing others of witchcraft. Thus, vengeance becomes another source of the pressure in Salem.

Another theme that brings to light the intense pressure in Salem is paranoia. The townspeople could never relax because of fear that they would be the next victims wrongfully accused. “It portrays mass paranoia and the struggle to maintain human dignity in the face of a universe bereft of reason and order”(Magill). Once the idea of witches and witchcraft starts in the town it is fueled by false accusations. This sets off an easy scapegoat for everything to be blamed upon. Instead of simply taking the blame upon themselves, many people “saved themselves by confessing to witchcraft and accusing others”(Popkin). This only fueled the fire of paranoia. People would worry about past grievances against them because, they fear that those grievances will cause an unjust accusation. The sense of paranoia is increased after the girls give a “hysterical [list] of names that closes the first act and resonates throughout the trial”(Schlueter and Flanagan). The play presents the instigators of the panic as people unwilling to accept their shortcomings, people who blame the devil and his helpers for their own lust, greed, or ambition. They spread confusion and suspicion as well an increased feeling of unrest and paranoia which continues the witch hunt.

Suppression is also an important theme in the play because the people of Salem had their individual freedoms put out of mind. The reason the children were so afflicted was not because of witchcraft, but because they were not able to be children otherwise. They were expected to be quiet, not heard, only seen. It is also best shown when the judges insist that Proctors confession be signed and posted on the church door. Proctor resists this, but the judges say they will not accept the confession without this term. Proctors individual freedom is suppressed(Miller). Also, since the only way to prevent being hung is to lie about being a witch. Therefore, their freedom to tell the truth is being suppressed. The witch trials serve as a chance to express repressed sentiments and to act on long-held grudges. Many people know of wrongdoings in the community but will not speak out against them. For example, Parris and Putnam are confronted by Proctor about their materialism and deceitful claims. Although the entire town was aware of the men’s wrongdoings, Proctor was the only one that confronted them. Not only are the townspeople emotionally suppressed, but they are also sexually suppressed. “In 'The Crucible' the sexual repression of the times drives a group of teenage girls to secret outings in the woods, where they dance naked”(Griffin). They are spied on by Minister Parris and eventually begin the witch hunt. Suppression is another theme that seems to resonate through the play.

Another theme that is used to confuse the issue of fairness is the sense of authority. Since there was no separation between the church and the government, there was a constant power struggle between the two forces. Parris believes that the church is the authority of all people in the town. Since he is a Reverend, he considers himself an authoritative figure. However, when Proctor is questioned as to why he has not been to church in so long, he admits that he has ill feelings toward Parris and the way that Parris gives sermons. Proctor does not like authority, and since Parris talks as though he is an authority figure, Proctor has an issue with this. Proctor is very critical over representatives of authority. In contrast, Danforth is strict in terms of his authority in the court. Not only is he adamant about his own personal authority, he acts the same way about the authority of the institution of the court system. He thinks that the court is the highest authority in the land, and because he presides over it, he will not stand for people questioning the way he runs it. Hale speaks also about the court as an authority over such matters as the witch-hunt but not as adamantly as Danforth. He says that the court knows what is best, and that he has seen the court preside over many such cases before. What Hale fails to understand is that just because a court has a command of the law does not mean that the court necessarily knows what is best. This is the same mistake that Danforth makes over and over again. He thinks that just because he presides over the law as a judge that he will make just decisions, as the law bids him to do. However, the end of the play shows that many innocent people are hung (http//www.bookrags.com/notes/cru/). “The Crucible focuses on how man can deal with a fierce authority which demands that he perform immoral acts in order to maintain a hypocritical status quo. The ‘theocracy’ of the Puritan settlement will not allow any cracks to appear in the facade of traditional religion . . . ”(Magill). The lack of a singular, strong government is one of the most essential keys in discovering the mistakes made in “measuring the pressure” of Salem.

Another theme of 'The Crucible' is the social drama aspect. Arthur Miller seems to be dramatizing an outlandish but not uncommon social phenomenon. “The Crucible may well be called a ‘social play’ since it analyzes a public phenomenon with historical precedent and current actuality”(Moss). The play explains this upheaval as an entirely natural happening. The explanation for the witch madness can be found in the makeup of the society itself. The play was written at a time when American society was threatened by a similar madness, over communism instead of witchcraft. Senator Joseph McCarthy was at the height of his power and popularity in the government (Popkin). The American Communist Party had also begun to reach its most intensified favor. While addressing the “Ohio County Women’s Republican Club . . . [McCarthy] claimed to have . . . a list of two-hundred-and-five known Communists in the State Department. With this broadside the panic was on. The ‘threat of Communism from within’ became a serious consideration in national politics and in the attitudes of Americans”(Porter). Soon everyone was under a microscope to see if they had any Communist ways. John Proctor was the only one brave enough to stand up to the court and the traditional way of life; Arthur Miller was the only person brave enough to publicly blow the whistle on the “Communist Scare.” Although there are many similarities between the Salem witch trials of 16 and Joseph McCarthy movement of the early 50s, there are still some differences. Some believe that “the chief reason why Miller did not go for a one-to-one analogy between the Salem trials and the loyalty hearings of the 1950s is that beyond whatever immediate point he wanted to make as a political man he hoped . . . to create a play that might outlast the moment.” The author is trying to get across the point that America should learn from past mistakes to avoid another witch trial or “loyalty trial”(qtd. in Griffin).

In the drama, 'The Crucible' many themes are used to develop the central idea of a “melting point.” Some of the themes that are used include hysteria, reputation, intolerance, vengeance, paranoia, suppression, authority, and the social drama aspect. These themes are essential in putting depth into the Salem witch trials. “There was never any doubt for most people living in New England in 1620 whether or not witchcraft was real or whether witches should be executed; the question centered around the reliability of spectral evidence coming from the testimony of the afflicted”(Martin). The trials are not only about witches, but about people letting out suppressed emotions and feelings. Extreme amounts of pressure occur when feelings are trapped in a soul for a long amount of time. Soon, they become under such extreme amounts of pressure that they explode. Often, the initial cause of the explosion can be very minute, but because of all the pressure the pot explodes. This explosion not only hurts the person, but it also hurts the people around the person. Restrained emotions that result in an explosion can begin anything from a fist fight to a world wide war.

Works Cited

Griffin, Alice. “Chapter Four The Crucible.” Understanding Arthur Miller. University Of South Carolina Press. 5-7.

Kramer, Meredith. “BookRags Book Notes on The Crucible.” 5 April 2000. http//www.bookrags.com/notes/cru/

Magill, Frank N., ed. “The Crucible.” Masterplots II. Vol II of II. Drama Series. Pasadena Salem Press. 414-1.

Marin, Robert A. “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible Background and Sources.” Martine, Critical Essays.

Martine, James J., ed. Critical Essays on Arthur Miller. Boston G. K. Hall & Co., 17.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York Penguin Group.

Moss, Leonard. “Chapter Four Four ‘Social Plays’” Arthur Miller. Boston Twayne Publishers.

Popkin, Henry. “The Historical Background of The Crucible.” Readings on Arthur Miller. Eds. Leone, Bruno, et al. San Diego Greenhaven Press.

Porter, Thomas E. “The Long Shadow of the Law The Crucible.” Martine, Critical Essays.

Schlueter, June, and James K. Flanagan. “The Crucible.” Modern Critical Interpretations The Crucible. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia Chelsea House Publishers.

Warshow, Robert. “The Liberal Conscience in The Crucible.” Arthur Miller A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Robert W. Corrigan. Englewood Cliffs Prentice-Hall Inc.


Please note that this sample paper on Themes in 'The Crucible' is for your review only. In order to eliminate any of the plagiarism issues, it is highly recommended that you do not use it for you own writing purposes. In case you experience difficulties with writing a well structured and accurately composed paper on Themes in 'The Crucible', we are here to assist you. Your persuasive essay on Themes in 'The Crucible' will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.
Order your authentic assignment from livepaperhelp.com and you will be amazed at how easy it is to complete a quality custom paper within the shortest time possible!