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Explain the dramatic significance of Pages 88-91 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Introduction

Explain the dramatic significance of Pages 88-91 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller The Crucible is seen as a political parable that compares two "awful chapters" in American and human history. The play is based on the Salem witch trials in 1692 which is parallel to the events that took place in 1957 during the McCarthy political "witch hunt" McCarthy set up the "House Un-American Activities Committee" which became paranoid in its search for communist sympathisers in America. Arthur Miller as a modern playwright achieved this comparison well even though he believed that the critics didn't fully appreciate the point of the story. The purpose of the play as Arthur Miller expresses is to show "the conflict between a man's raw deeds and his conception of himself; ...and what happens when (conscience) is handed over not merely to the state or the mores of the time but to one's friend or wife". This shows the reader/audience that problems aren't only confined to the rich and powerful but a common mans failure is just as moving and tragic. The courtroom in Act three is a crucial point in the play where each character is put under pressure and this exposes each of their weaknesses. The effect of the tense courtroom environment forces the audience to speculate on the reactions of all the characters. By doing so Miller shows that you cannot always dictate human nature or behaviour. For instance, John Proctor's mood in this scene rapidly changes; he goes to the court to plead his wife's innocence and to support Giles Corey and Francis Nurse. ...read more.

Middle

Abigail's actions are representative of the actions of government during the 1950's. Both the government and Abigail seek to manipulate the system to gain power (through Witch trials/McCarthy trials). Miller shows what power can do in the wrong hands and the way the government perverts the course of justice. Proctor opposes Abigail during the trial; he refuses to believe her lies and knows that she is being hypocritical. Proctor has considerable influence over the "common man" in Salem. His reputation is important to him and his dramatic confession "how do you call heaven! Whore! Whore!" is completely unexpected. This provokes sympathy from the audience. Proctor is now a known "lecher" and he tries to explain "a man will not cast away his good name". This shows that Proctors reputation is important to him and he must protect it. Miller shows his own morals and ethics in Proctors character where Proctor sacrifices his good name. The implication is that Proctor did the right thing by confessing. It is also a dramatic turning point because he has effectively committed "social suicide" and this becomes the main focus in the trial. Miller wants the audience to understand that John Proctor has been tackling his conscience since his affair with Abigail. After his confession in Act Three he is overwhelmed by guilt and shame because he has disappointed his friends. Miller shows the audience the hardships faced by an individual to stand up to the rest of society. This idea comes from the way Miller stood up against McCarthyism and was scrutinised for it. ...read more.

Conclusion

Proctor believes that the law and the government is unjust so he disagrees with Danforth and Hathorne "it is hard to give a lie to dogs" because he cannot forgive them for causing the death of his friends. Miller wants the audience to consider the roles the characters played in Salem and to ask themselves whether they would do the same allowing the audience to empathise with the characters. He wants them to question whether there are people like that in today's society and to make them question the world around them. The Crucible shows an "awful chapter in human history" which still has an impact on the world today. It shows that "witches and communists could be equated" because they were both victims of the government. Miller wanted to show that society hadn't learnt anything from the events that occurred in Salem and that "what is manifestly parallel was the guilt, two centuries apart, of holding illicit, suppressed feelings of alienation and hostility ". The government will stop anyone who poses a threat to the state (like Abigail). Including censorship of the Arts e.g. songs by artists like Eminem, whose lyrics scrutinise the actions of government. In response the government brands this behaviour as unpatriotic. The play therefore teaches us that people will always be used as scapegoats by the government because they will always be able to find "victims". It shows us the reality of alienation and the power of paranoia, particularly in the way it clouds logic. We learn that as individuals we should avoid becoming the "victim" and should stand up for what we believe as both Proctor and Miller have done. ...read more.

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