Welcome to this wonderful book pair, one of the most popular for Year 12 Book Pairs
“The Crucible and the play of power and fear” by Dr Jennifer Minter (English Works Notes, 2014)
In his autobiography Timebends, Arthur Miller states, if the play (The Crucible) is a hit on stage, ‘it is either a warning of tyranny on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past”. It is a metaphor of the immortal underlying forces that can always rise again.
In his own Words: Timebends: The Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts
Arthur Miller states: “on a cold spring day in 1952, I was the only visitor in the Historical Society “Witch Museum”. The museum consists of an exhaustive collection of papers on witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Ironically, the museum became widely frequented after “The Crucible had registered in the public mind”. (43). Miller describes his fascination for these New Englanders who were “putative ur-Hebrews”, with whom they shared “the same fierce idealism, devotion to God, tendency to legalistic reductiveness, the same longings for the pure and intellectually elegant argument”. “And God was driving them crazy.”
The pictures in the Museum recalled just how “fantastically people were behaving under the prickings and seducing tricks of witches”. One such picture that seemed to have stayed with Miller was that of the “afflicted innocent girls pointing in terror at some farmer’s wife who was secretly persecuting them and yet stood in proud contempt of their Christian accusations”. (One thinks of Rebecca Goodes and Goody Proctor.) “Nearby in front of a judge and some fifteen subordinate officials and Christian ministers dressed in floor-length robes, with long prophetic beards, looking wildly outraged at the incredible Devil-driven adamancy of the accused.”
Miller states that in visiting Salem he tried to understand the shifts of interests that turned “loving husbands and wives into stony enemies”, “loving parents into indifferent supervisors or even exploiters of their children, and so forth”. That was the real story of Salem Village, “what they called then the breaking of charity with one another”. “Every testimony I had read revealed the sexual theme, either open or barely concealed”. Night was the usual time to be “subverted from dutiful Christian behaviour”. “To make not a story, but a drama of this parade of individual tragedies – this was the intimidating task before me”. (Timebends)
The central story of the breakdown of the Proctor marriage and Abigail William’s determination to have Elizabeth murdered lies at the heart of Charles W Upham’s 19th century masterpiece, the Salem Witchcraft. Miller admits that he was captured by the “cleansing” nature that ricocheted throughout the town as the girls projected their “pestilential sins” onto their neighbours, and were applauded for their courage.
If Abigail seeks vengeance for her illicit love affair after John Proctor rejects her, this conflict is also symptomatic of a greater malaise as the devil – the “Old Boy” or Lucifer — reveals the tensions and contradictions that lie at the heart of a society that clings to purity, and moral rectitude, whilst struggling with its hypocrisies and problems at the same time.
- Make sure you are up to date with my useful list of “The language of comparison”
- Please see Crucible: Themes and Issues
- Also See: The Crucible: a play of our times (parallels)
- See Crucible Summary and quotes
- See Crucible Themes by Arthur Miller
- The Nurse family and Thomas Putnam (Crucible)
- See Crucible: shared themes and ideas
- Please see: notes and quotes for Crucible/those in position of power
- Please see The Crucible: dilemmas and choices
- Please see a typical student response: The Crucible and the reasons that fuel conflict
- For Excellence in VCE, please see our recently published Arguments and Persuasive Language