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How does Miller create tension in Act I of the Crucible?

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Introduction

How does Miller create tension in Act I of the Crucible? In reading the overture, before any dialogue takes place, we are given a small glimpse into the world of the Salemites. Miller speaks briefly of the town and the surrounding wilderness. The placement of Salem, surrounded by the impenetrable forest already starts building tension. The simple fact that forest is present prevents escape from Salem and therefore the inhabitants of Salem are unable to physically remove themselves from their problems and conflicts within the community. The forest itself is described as: 'dark and threatening', by Miller. This introduces an almost intangible danger and constant threat to the play. This alone will make the Salemites feel trapped; this pressured feeling being reflected throughout the play. More significant is the way in which the forest is said to be: 'over their shoulders'. This creates a feeling that the inhabitants of Salem are being overshadowed by this great threat. ...read more.

Middle

This may be a very literal way of showing us tension between Proctor and Abigail. Later, on the same page, Abigail 'springs into his path'. Again the word spring suggests she has been coiled, tense, awaiting his movement and it is this anticipation that Miller uses to great effect when showing us chemistry between two characters. Of all things, perhaps the fear of the unknown is the most potent. Miller uses this from the start and builds tension around the fact that the audience has as little or less information about the preceding events as the characters. As both the audience and characters are apparently in the dark about events surrounding Betty's condition there is again a link draw up between the two, this is used to the same effect as the McCarthyism link. Speech patterns also show the stress of the characters involved. For example, most characters start to shorten their words and speak in a far more rigid fashion than usual when feeling threatened or angry. ...read more.

Conclusion

Without the unconverted heathens England offered it what was left but fighting the Devil himself or looking to your neighbour for anything that could be seen as an unholy blemish? The Salemites belief in the Devils power in Salem may have been started by the girls but was carried onwards and taken higher by almost all of the inhabitants of Salem, possibly because they wanted to believe in the corruption of their village. This scenario, as presented by Miller in Act I of 'The Crucible' is at the core of all tension throughout the play. Miller makes us see how incredibly dangerous society can be when in the grip of hysteria, the audience of then would have known all too well. Through uses of different devices Miller feeds and augments the underlying tension at key moments until we realise that some dreadful act must take place before the village will realises what it has done. What action could be interpreted as the Devil's work in a society gone mad? As we see from Goody Nurses and Proctors hanging, anything. ...read more.

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