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The Crucible.

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Introduction

The Crucible: Long Essay Danielle Atlas The Crucible, a drama by Arthur Miller effectively explores and deals with a number of enduring social and moral problems. These problems are not only contemporaneous and contemporary, but also have featured repeatedly throughout history. The Crucible, written in America in the 1950s is a tragic drama centring the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The drama itself is suggested to be an allegory for the anti-Communist "witch-hunts" of Miller's own context. It was published at the height of Joseph McCarthy's anti Communist campaign and parallels are drawn between the witch hunts of Salem and the 'witch hunts' of 1950s America - namely unsupported accusations, corruption and distrust and a spiral of fear and suspicion. However, the themes, issues and problems raised in the drama can be applied outside of any context, showing how the consequences of hysteria are problematised in a general sense. The problems raised by Miller are dealt with in the play through a variety of dramatic techniques and conventions, allowing the audience to condone or condemn many of the actions, decisions, themes and issues raised and problematised in the drama. Gender inequalities and the power relationships between men and women, are explored and dealt with in Miller's The Crucible. Women, in keeping with tradition are portrayed by a number of stereotypical roles. For example, the villainous character Abigail is constructed by Miller as a temptress, and the biblical discourse of the drama connects her to biblical figures such as Jezebel. Abigail is presented to the audience as a character with low moral integrity, driven by sexual desire for John Proctor and a lust for power. From a feminist viewpoint, the character Abigail represents the basic stereotypical views of women, particularly in a biblical sense. Considering that the audience condemns Abigail's power hungry nature and rejects her opinion, the stereotypical views of women are condemned in the drama. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout history, society has sought to 'rid the impure' and maintain a purer society through the use of murder, extermination and torture. Has the result been a ridding of impurity? Miller, through the use of irony rejects this ideology, and problematises it in The Crucible. Historic intertexts are decoded by the audience in order to treat these problems raised. The Crucible is most often seen as an allegory to McCarthyism and the Red Scare of the 1950s. After World War Two, Americans viewed Russia and Communism and a threat to their capitalist society. Innocent people were persecuted if they were Communist, or even suspected of having Communist sympathies. This historical intertexts relates directly to The Crucible, rejecting McCarthyism and the xenophobia it caused. However, other historical intertexts are evident in The Crucible and are utilised to present the issues of bigotry, xenophobia and the fear of the unknown as problematic. World War Two not only gave rise to Communism; it was also the period of the Nazi regime. Again, in pursuit of a 'pure' race, the crucible was applied to much of Europe, resulting in the persecution and extermination of Jews and other minority races. As Miller himself was Jewish, he may have had concerns about the bigotry and xenophobia of the Nazi Party and its regime. This is reflected - be it consciously or unconsciously - in The Crucible. Other historical intertexts such as the Russian Revolution and its repercussions are also evident in the bigotry and xenophobia evident in Miller's drama. The nature of human beings is problematised and moral problems are explored in The Crucible by Miller. Critics complained that Miller had over-emphasised the malice and cruelty of the judicial characters such as Judge Danforth. Miller, however replied that original records showed the judges in that light, and if he was to rewrite The Crucible, he would intensify, rather than reduce the evil nature of these men. ...read more.

Conclusion

This insecurity and inability to make clear concise decisions and the moral uncertainty of these decisions escalates the conflict within the drama, revealing dilemma and thus making the drama more effective. Unconsciously these characters ignore what they feel is right, and instead depend on the views of the persuasive society to do what they think is right. For example, Judge Danforth refuses to believe that the girls might be frauds and he has been making the wrong judgements throughout the play and sentencing innocents to death. The problem of moral uncertainty represented throughout the play through repetition, characterisation and conflict allows the audience to condemn this uncertainty. The audience is also able to view the destruction of characters and society itself within the play as a result of this lack of moral conviction and integrity. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller is an effective medium in which a variety of social and moral problems are raised. These problematised issues are typically treated in two ways. Firstly, in the case of problems raised such as gender and class inequalities, traditional roles are often maintained, but varied slightly in order to create confusion and complications. These complications allow these problems to be raised and condemned. Other problems, such as envy, jealousy and bigotry are vehemently attacked by Miller, allowing the audience to immediately view these issues and others as problematic. While some problems and issues raised are justified - for example, Abigail's desire for affection relates to her traumatic childhood - all in all, the main problems raised in The Crucible are rejected. This is achieved by the use of a variety of dramatic techniques and conventions throughout the drama, allowing the audience to gain insight into the problems evident not only in the Puritan society of Salem, Massachusetts in 1492, but to other contexts - be it Miller's McCarthyist context, the Nazi Germany period, contemporary society or to any general context where human behaviour and conflict is evident. ...read more.

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