The play is set in 1692 and it reflects the Salem witch Trials of that time contrasted with McCarthyism in the time of Miller. It depicts the Puritan characters where they are faced with choosing between binary oppositions as ‘a person is either with this court or… counted against it, there be no road between”. Miller also adopts patois and archaic language to distance responders from the context and events, so as to critically analyse the conflict within character relations.
Abigail is one character who has been exploited into conforming to society. She is dishonest and manipulative as on the occasion of the forest events. She exploited Tituba to act as the scapegoat through her use of contextual references voiced through vivid imagery, “I see the face of Lucifer, your face and mine”, overriding the pleading tone of the Barbados woman. She has also been able to avoid detection of her sinful behaviour, which was achieved by her and the other girls using repetitive histrionics, “I want to open myself!… I saw Sarah Good with the Devil!
I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil!… ” The responder clearly can see how Abigail has been pressured into conforming to her community as she uses uncomprehendable methods in order for her to survive. The Crucible also displays the importance of assimilation into society in maintaining an individual’s identity. Marry Warren is a character who chooses to conform to society so that she can maintain her identity. She is a young woman who has no major social status in her community and the only way for her to feel accepted is to conform and obey with what is expected of her.
The power Abigail has over her is enormous as Mary tries to stand up for justice, but is unable to as the peer pressure is too much for her to handle. She listens to Proctor’s advice in order to save Elizabeth, “Mary, remember the angel Raphael-do that which is good”, but once in court she is rendered powerless by the constant mocking of Abigail and the girls as they mimic her every action. This causes Mary to accept defeat as she gives up her personal values and sides with Abigail over Proctor, “I’ll not hang with you! I love God, I love God”.
This enhances the audience’s understanding of how the power of coercion in society leads to a detrimental shaping of an individual’s identity as they choose to conform to save themselves. Through society’s pressure to conform, Good Night and Good Luck heightens the reader’s awareness of how an individual is forced into committing to civilisation, leading to a negative impact on their sense of self. The married couple, Shirley and Joe Wershba, are going against CBS’s company policy as no co-workers are allowed to be married.
In order for them to stay married they must keep it a secret. In choosing to adhere to community values it forges a detrimental shaping of their identity as they must keep their secret unknown or they will face the consequences. Later in the film the couple are asked by the companies manager, Jeff Daniels, for one of them to resign as he state that everyone knows they are married anyway. The script writer has also incorporated irony here as Shirley says, “Finally we can tell everyone the truth”, knowing well that everyone already does know.
The effect this has is that it enables the audience to understand how it feels liberating for the couple that they don’t have to keep this secret anymore, and that this secret was acting as a barrier for them to truly belong and by ridding themselves of this secret it allows them to feel a positive sense of self. Arthur Miller’s play ascertains that choosing to detach from societal pressures offers a way to nurture an individual’s identity.
Proctor is a character who is seen to be a strong family man, but behind the scenes he was having an affair with the young Abigail leading to him to have marital roubles. This gave rise to Proctor feeling a sense of alienation where he doesn’t deserve the respect of his community or his wife’s love. Whilst in court he makes a declaration to Danforth that they will both will burn in hell, which is an attack on Danforth and himself, “A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! ”. During the concluding scenes of the play Proctor has an epiphany when he is asked to sign the papers confessing his sins.
He realises that his name is what defines his identity and that by signing it away he is giving up on himself. In refusing to sign the papers Proctor is asserting his right to judge himself, “for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor”. Proctor here conveys the message that he is choosing not to belong to his society but to his wife as she is what is most important in Proctor’s life. This concept of choosing to adhere to an individual’s own beliefs and not to the expected desires of the community is also portrayed in Good Night and Good Luck by the characters Edward Murrow and Fred Friendly.
The pair make a formidable partnership as they both have the burning sensation of delivering the truth to the public, even if it is prohibited to do so. Friendly is a bit cautious of completing this risky task as Murrow states “we might not get away with this one”, but he is still determined as Murrow to see this task through, “we’re gonna go down swinging”. The inclusive ‘we’ used in their statements shows that they are in this together and backed up with the boxing metaphor in Friendly’s statement exemplifies that they will fight till the end as one team, no matter the consequences.
From these texts, through the main characters ,the audience is able to see the possibilities of how choosing to go against the community is beneficial for an individual’s identity. Through examining ‘The Crucible” and “Good Night and Good Luck” it portrays that people indeed experience a sense of acceptance one way or another. Both texts are inextricably linked as they are both seen by the audience to convey the same notions of belonging, which lead to elucidation of an individual’s identity.