Brenda Beltran Ms. Brostrom English 12 AP “Criticizing The Crucible” The novel, The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, is looked at in two different ways. It has been viewed as a novel that takes place during the Salem witch trials but also as a metaphor to the McCarthy era and a terrible period in American history. Arthur Miller was very “disappointed by the critic’s reactions” (Analysing the Historical Content) towards his novel. Most critics were declaring Miller’s novel as an allegory to 1950’s America.
Miller did not write the novel as an allegory as the critics thought he did. He discusses The Crucible’s theme stating: “I am not sure what The Crucible is telling people now, but I know that its paranoid center is still pumping out the same darkly attractive warning that it did in the fifties. For some, the play seems to be about the dilemma of relying on the testimony of small children accusing adults of sexual abuse, something I’d not have dreamed of forty years ago.
For others, it may simply be a fascination with the outbreak of paranoia that suffuses the play—the blind panic that, in our age, often seems to sit at the dim edges of consciousness. Certainly its political implications are the central issue for many people… ” (Storytelling” 164). Miller, at this point, understands what people believe his novel to be. Miller claimed, “No critic seemed to sense what I was after, which was the conflict between a man’s raw deeds and his conception of himself” (Analysing the Historical Content).
Miller was just writing a novel that takes place in 17th century Salem, about a man with problems he has to overcome as stated, “Both women and men will empathize with John Proctor as he struggles to come to terms with himself as a human being subject to flaws, yet able to rise above his own concerns to help humankind” (“Storytelling”). Miller wrote the novel about John Proctor rising above his problems in his life also in his community.
It is difficult to get anybody in his community to listen, “Although John Proctor changes from a man concerned with the individual to a man concerned with his community, the story is an apparent dilemma because his change does not stop the madness in the environment” (“Storytelling”). His community is corrupt because nobody listens to reason; nobody ever wants proof; he/she just believes anything the people in the court room say, “The Crucible shows how easily people can be swayed, with the barest of evidence, to believe something that is false” (“Customer Reviews”).
Many innocent people died because nobody ever asked for evidence, “The major theme of this tragedy concerns ways that superstition and rumor, rooted in a strict religious community, linked to political power without legal restraint, lead to the persecution and deaths of many innocent people. ” (“The Crucible by Arthur Miller: A Study Guide”). Even though John began to see the truth in his town, he still couldn’t save it; he couldn’t stop the madness that occurs there.
The characters in The Crucible have issues going on in their minds, “Suspicion founded on envy and ignorance is a thematic issue that affects all of the characters in The Crucible: ‘Old scores could be settled on a plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord; suspicions and the envy of the miserable toward the happy could and did burst out in the general revenge’ (Miller 8). ” (“Storytelling”).
Most of the characters were very greedy, wanting more and more land; they began to accuse their neighbors of being witches to get them to be hanged and then take their land, “…for example Act three, page 77, when Giles Corey confronts Thomas Putnam and points out to the court that Putnam stood to gain from everyone else’s losses. It also meant that people were highly suspicious of one another and reported everything as witchcraft” (“Customer Reviews”).
Abigail is the most naive character of this novel, “Abigail believes that as of this moment John Proctor is in love with her because of their past relationship: ‘You really loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet! ’ (Miller 24) (“Storytelling”). Abigail is so blind with envy and greed she doesn’t see the truth, “Abigail believes John is only using pretense to his duty by his wife (Miller 152), and refuses to back down, convinced that as soon as Elizabeth hangs, she and John will dance on Goody Proctor’s grave together.
John, at this point, is certain that Abigail has gone as mad as the townspeople” (“Storytelling”). Abigail is really envious of the innocent Elizabeth Proctor; she basically wants Elizabeth to die so she can keep John all for herself, but John knows that isn’t going to happen, and he knows she’s gone nuts like everyone else in the town. The way Arthur Miller portrays most of the townspeople of Salem is as if they are tainted by the seven deadly sins; nobody listens to reason or cares about bringing justice to the people who truly deserve it.
Miller’s The Crucible isn’t just seen as a novel about the Salem witch trials but also as a metaphor of 1950’s America. “It is set in Salem during the infamous witch trials, but could easily translate to other times in history…” (“Customer Reviews”). The main time that many critics know about is the McCarthy era and the anti-Communist hearings. The play, “… is essentially a critique of McCarthyism and the communist scare of the 1950’s.
Miller saw the parallels between the witch hunts and the McCarthy trials, and the witch trials to be a compelling vehicle for discussing modern events. ” (“Customer Reviews”). Miller wrote the novel intentionally to depict similarities with the McCarthy era and the witch trials: a way that he can describe about what was happening during the 1950’s. The novel is seen as a, “…tale of the Salem witch trials that contains obvious analogies to the McCarthy anti-communist hearings in 1950’s America. ” (“The Crucible by Arthur Miller: A Study Guide”).
In the anti-communist hearings, Miller was put on the spot to give away names of people he supposedly saw at a communist writer’s meeting; this is just like the novel. In the novel people who were accused of being witches had the chance to point the finger at other people for being a witch to save themselves from being hanged. In the novel some people gain from other’s losses, as Thomas Putnam did, “Similar events to Putnam’s suspicious convictions of his neighbours, again appear in McCarthyism.
Many of the people accused during the McCarthyism era were people with high positions of power, and plenty of other people would have benefited from their loses. This shows that some people will go to any length to get what they want. ” (“Analysing the Historical Content”). In both McCarthyism and The Crucible there are people who just don’t care what happens to the ones around them just as long as they get anything they desire so they begin accusing their neighbors and/or friends of being witches or communists.
People accused others of actions they didn’t commit just to save their own necks as well as just being selfish and greedy. Another similarity they both share is the authorities wanted agreement. “The Crucible was written, by using it to mirror the McCarthy era, the spirit of persecution was re-awoken. Just as McCarthy considered everything ‘Un-American’ to be communist, the Puritans in The Crucible thought everything unexplainable to be the work of the devil, and in both cases, the authorities demanded conformity. ” (“Analysing the Historical Content”).
Both basically want everybody to agree with what they believe is right and if somebody doesn’t, then she/he is not thinking straight and must pay for that. For example, if somebody thought different than what the judge or McCarthy believes, then she/he must be a witch or a communist because that person isn’t thinking right. With many critics believing that The Crucible is an allegory for 1950’s America, “Miller made it clear that his play was fiction that was loosely based on the Salem witch trials. ” (“Customer Reviews”).
Miller’s perspective towards The Crucible is that it’s a novel about the Salem witch trials and demonstrates how outrageous many people become without getting any facts or listening to reason, just jumping to conclusion and living in a corrupt town. Critics, however, mainly state that his novel is about the McCarthy era and anti-communist hearings; but to figure that out one must look behind the text of the novel. Miller is shocked at how some people perceive the novel because, according to him, they are completely wrong from what he says the novel is bout.
The novel, The Crucible, nonetheless, is a controversial novel; some critics and Arthur Miller believe the novel is merely about witches in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 while other critics believe there is much more to the novel than meets the eye. Works Cited “Analysing the Historical Content of The Crucible,” November 5, 2007 “Customer Reviews: The Crucible (Penguin Classics),” November 5, 2007 “Storytelling Output Report for The Crucible,” November 5, 2007 “The Crucible by Arthur Miller: A Study Guide- Stratford Festival Theater- School Season-2006/07,”
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