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How Does Miller convey his Message through 'The Crucible'?

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Introduction

How Does Miller convey his Message through 'The Crucible'? In this essay, I will explore the message communicated through 'The Crucible' to its audience, and the way in which its author, Arthur Miller, attempts to convey it, especially through one of the play's main characters, John Proctor. The main issues raised by the play are the role of the individual within society, the value of one's name and perceptions of justice and truth. I shall endeavour to expand on all of these topics and their relevance to the play. Miller chose to write about a small settlement called Salem, in what was (at the time the play was set) the 'New World', North America. He had previously read a book entitled 'The devil in Massachusetts' by Marion Starkey, and took an interest in the subject. He soon discovered parallels between the problems faced by those who were accused of witchcraft all those years ago, and those having to answer charges of Communism or affiliation with Russia or her allies in any way, in his present day situation. As in the story, the American authorities had in their possession lists of names of people who had for instance, supposedly attended a meeting of communist sympathises (maybe even ten or twenty years previously). However they were still keen for witnesses to name names, in return for their freedom. Published in 1953, at the height of the McCarthy 'Witch hunts', 'The Crucible', although concerned mainly with the witchcraft trials that had taken place in Salem in 1692, was actually aimed at the investigations made by the United States Congress in to subversive activities throughout the country. Miller himself appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956. He was convicted of contempt, but later the conviction was appealed and reversed. Salem, in 1692, shows an enclosed community, more than a society. It was presided over by an all-powerful theocracy (that is, a joint Religious and Governmental power), that regulated everyday life within the Village. ...read more.

Middle

However, through easily committed but nevertheless important mistakes - whether it was submission to temptation or plain folly - they fall by the way side. Their mistakes are accidental, not cold-blooded, or carefully planned and one could say they were unlucky, however they are, whichever way you look at it, in the wrong. As Reverend Hale points out, '...theology, Sir, is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small'. These characters may be depicted as weak willed or unwise, but not shown to be fundamentally immoral. Thirdly, there is one character that has given a clear choice between right and wrong, and deliberately chose the latter. This character is either scheming, clearly corrupt, selfish, proud or greedy, and is portrayed accordingly. Abigail Williams, the leader of the 'girls' is the sole member of this category. John Proctor is one of the central characters to the plot. He knows he is not perfect, and importantly, does not intend to make him self out to be, therefore drawing a defining line between him and other characters. As he states, '...I am no good man. Nothing's spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before.' Here Proctor again refers to the guilt he feels having committed adultery. This comes at a stage in the play where he has a choice between his life and his honesty - ironically if he tells the truth (that he is not involved in witchcraft) - he will surely die, as Danforth will not believe him. As one charged with the unholy crime, no defence on his part is acceptable to the 'court' that he has been bought before. The only way of saving his own life is to give a (false) confession - as it was widely believed that this spoke a desire to come back to 'the Lord's side' - and then to produce names of other people he had 'seen' with the devil. ...read more.

Conclusion

Proctor refuses to lie, but instead forfeits his life; knowing that he is doing the right thing, as Elizabeth points out '...He have his goodness now, God forbid take it from him'. In this way Danforth and his followers, members of the second category previously mentioned are portrayed as unethical - and that their negligence is not acceptable, as they failed to carry out their duty as Christians. Consequently, Proctor is named our tragic hero. Notably, the play features heavily on the value of a name, which may come as little surprise bearing in mind that this community relies so heavily on pretences, and keeping up appearances. A name, to the people of Salem, in 1692, represented ones reputation, how other people regarded you. Also important are the beliefs widely held by many primitive peoples concerning the power of the name - which was that if a witch even knew your name, then they had power over you. Proctor worries a great deal about his name, (or, his reputation), especially when it was in jeopardy. When presented with the choice between his good name and his life he undergoes a huge internal battle. When asked why he cannot 'confess' to save him self, he exclaims, 'because its is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign my self to lies'. Proctor it seems, gradually realises that he cannot, and will not lower himself to the point of blatant lying even if it is to save his own life. However he reduces himself to doing so, yet when he is asked to sign his confession - on paper - he breaks down. Comprehending what he had done, he retracts his statement, as it were, and exclaims 'Damn the village, I confess to God'. Still, many of the characters can not understand why Proctor will not 'give them this lie' Hale asks, 'what profits him to bleed...Shall the worms declare his truth?' But Proctor, it seems has been raised to a new level, above, beyond. An example to us all? For surely, 'He have his goodness now'. ...read more.

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