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How Miller creates Tension and sustains the Reader's Interest in The Crucible

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Introduction

How Miller creates Tension and sustains the Reader's Interest in The Crucible The Crucible takes place in Salem, a small town in seventeenth century Massachusetts, where religion, fear and hysteria ultimately lead to the famous witchcraft trials in 1692. At the time The Crucible was produced, Senator Joseph McCarthy was in power as the chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Due to relative events and the paranoid hunting of pro-communists, The Crucible is seen to be a metaphor for the McCarthy era. Throughout The Crucible, Miller employs several techniques and writing styles to create tension and suspense and to stimulate the audience's interest. The most important reason why The Crucible retains the interest of the audience is because the plot maintains a slow burning, yet consistent pace. Act one is a prime example of how information is released gradually and atmospherically. The very start of the play leaves us oblivious to what has happened, with Parris praying over his inert daughter. This is a great method to grab the audience's attention immediately as we are in the dark right from the start, and naturally are curious about what has happened. As the act progresses, patches of information are revealed, but the uncertainty and contradiction present engages the audience as they are forced to decipher for themselves the truth; at one point Abigail is denying all charges profusely: 'We did dance, uncle, and when you leaped out of the bush so suddenly, Betty was frightened and then she fainted. ...read more.

Middle

Our hopes that the situation will be resolved and our almost angry views to some of the characters ignorance involves us in the plot and helps to share what John Proctor and some of the other characters must be feeling. In order to maintain the suspense and atmosphere in-between acts, Miller makes sure to end the first 3 acts with suspense and cliff-hangers and Act 4 with a big finale. In the ultimate scenes of Act 1, the tension created throughout the start of the play reaches its climax with Abigail and the other Girls accusing various Salem citizens of witchcraft to relieve themselves of attention. Miller has chosen a fantastic way to draw the Act to an unmistakeable close but still retaining the interest of the reader; it draws the events of the night together, satisfying the reader in one element, but has at the same time unleashed a larger and more complex crisis upon Salem, rousing the inquisitive eagerness experienced right from the very start of the play. Act 2 also ends dramatically with Elizabeth's arrest after Abigail utilizes Mary's poppet to frame Elizabeth. As in Act 1, it draws the night's events to a satisfying climax with Elizabeth's arrest, but also leaves the reader expectant of Act 3's events with Proctor and Mary planning to expose Abigail. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perhaps one of the largest factors which I found captured my interest is the theme of The Crucible in its entirety. The Puritan lifestyle these people lead, the mass hysteria and even the prospect of witchcraft - together they create a truly believable atmosphere which the audience can easily become caught up in; this is very important as, despite the fact it is all true, if the play does not seem so then that factor is redundant. The Crucible is very much relevant to our lives in a more general sense; persecution and victimization have forever been a factor in modern-day life. As an audience, we can empathise with the accused as we too may have experienced a similar situation. The reason the atmosphere and charachters were created so effectively was because of Miller's ability to keep the plot unpredictable; there is never a moment when things have all been worked out, even at the ending. This is achieved by details and information released gradually, giving the reader more motivation to continue. If everything is told simply, quickly and without suspense it is hard for the reader to truly immerse themselves in the plot. In any story, you discover more as the book progresses, but it's when you can leave the reader anticipating the next step, revelation or even a fine detail that you truly capture their interest and create an effective sense of tension like Miller has in The Crucible. ...read more.

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