Essay Topics for the Crucible

Main characters who grow and change
Reverend Hale.
He arrives in Salem feeling like the work he does is blessed by God and logical and reasoned. If you look at his first entrance, he responds to someones comments about the weight of his books by saying that they are weighted with authority (namely the authority of God). As the accusations go on, he feels that those who are accused have nothing to fear if they are truly innocent. By the end of the play, he is begging John Proctor to confess to the charges of witchcraft to save his life. He tells John to give the judge the lie of his confession because it may be less of a sin to lie than to die to save his pride.Proctor’s character changes drastically from the beginning of the play to the end, and is perhaps the most important element of the play. He goes from a hot-headed adulterer to someone who truly wants redemption and make things right by his wife whom he has wronged.

Elizabeth Proctor
in the beginning Elizabeth blames John completely for their marital problems and in the end she recognizes that she had a part to play in it.

Conflict, which characters have conflict, what kind of conflict, is it resolved and how

Elizabeth and John Proctor are in conflict with one another because John has had an affair with Abigail Williams, a young woman who used to work for them and whom Elizabeth fired due to her involvement with John.

Abigail hates Elizabeth for firing her and taking her away from close proximity to John.

The Putnams are in conflict with almost everyone since he wants everyone else’s land and has attempted on several occasions to get it, and all of their children except one has died. Goody Putnam is jealous of others whose children and grandchildren are healthy when hers have not survived–Goody Nurse is especially the target of Goody Putnam’s ire.

Tituba is in conflict with almost the entire town when they accuse her of dancing with the devil. She finally admits it and names names of others in the community whom she has supposedly seen with the devil. She does this to protect her own life–they target her since she is a foreigner and because she was caught with the girls dancing and casting spells in the forest.

Mary Warren is in conflict with the other girls when she wants to tell the truth about the accusation against Elizabeth Proctor and they all continue to play along with Abigail’s farce.

Goody Nurse, John Proctor, and others are in conflict with the town when they face the charges of being witches and dealing with the devil.

John is in conflict with himself–to lie and save himself or stand for his honor.

Compare and contrast The Crucible to The Red Scare of the 1950’s
Substance of Claims
Fueled by allegations of unholiness, the Salem Witch Trials differ from the Red Scare of the 20th century, which gained momentum on the basis of allegations of communism. Both movements targeted individuals on the basis of shaky testimony provided by their colleagues. The Salem Witch Trials investigated claims made by citizens within Massachusetts communities, some of whom were adolescent girls. These girls provoked hysteria in their communities by alleging that certain individuals were engaged in the practice of witchcraft (see References). Testimony that fueled the Red Scare was provided primarily by adults, many of whom were professionals. In many cases, Red Scare testimony was based on morsels of fact, such as the fact that a person had once registered as a communist decades prior to being investigated.Religious vs. Secular
Though operating within a legal framework, the Salem Witch Trials emerged from the Puritan spiritual movement, whereas the Red Scare revolved around reactionary political concerns. Although conservative religious figures fueled both movements, the Salem Witch Trials were conducted within a community that was acutely aware of biblical doctrine. The Red Scare of the 1950s occurred at a time when American society was considered to be a “melting pot” that supported a diversity of races and creeds. Although the Red Scare was a backlash against a threatening ideology, it certainly did not aim to impose religious standards upon society.

The Salem Witch Trials were limited in their scope, only affecting members within an insular religious community. By contrast, the Red Scare was expansive in its scope, affecting politicians, businessmen and movie stars such as Lucille Ball. The Salem Witch Trials investigated the conduct of citizens in three counties of colonial Massachusetts: Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex. Originating as a symptom of the Cold War, which was a period of history when communist and democratic ideologies clashed, the Red Scare of the 1950s was international in scope.

Voices of Reason
Adamant opposition to both the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare was voiced by critics during each of these infamous periods of American history. During the Salem Witch Trials, critic Thomas Brattle observed that judges were not infallible and noted that occasional errors they made perverted justice within their government (see References). Senator Joseph McCarthy, who fueled the Red Scare of the 1950s with wild allegations that spurred highly publicized hearings, received criticism from colleagues such as Senator Margaret Chase Smith before the United States Senate voted to formally censure him on On Dec. 2, 1954.

John Proctor’s tragic flaw, tragic hero?, what happens to him, does he win?
as the play opens, the audience discovers that Proctor has a significant secret, which was his affair with a young girl named Abigail Williams. Abigail doesn’t want to believe that it is over between her and John and tries to kill Elizabeth Proctor by engaging in witchcraft with a few other girls in the town. As the town uncovers the antics of the girls and are outraged, the girls start to cry out names of others they have supposedly seen with the Devil in order to save themselves. Therefore, the audience perceives that the affair between John and Abigail is the instigator of all the hysteria surrounding the witch trials, signifying the consequences of a small human error.
The affair also caused Elizabeth to distrust John, who for seven months was trying to get into her good graces and is tired of her suspicion. He bluntly tells her “…I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you…I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies…”(52). This illustrates John’s perseverance in attempting to redeem himself for his sin and wants to make right the troubles his mistake brought upon him. Because of John’s inability to control his desire and resist temptation, his life is being turned upside down by the jealousy and need for revenge of Abigail, marking the beginning of his downfall and path to becoming a tragic hero.
In the end John dies to save his reputation so in the eyes of God John has won by keeping his soul “clean”
Major Themes

-Authority; authoritarian figures abuse their powers

-Guilt; Many people lie about witches, John feels guilty about affair

-Integrity and Courage; many people refuse to admit to witchcraft to save their reputation, very brave

-Hypocrisy; As Puritans Judgment, deceit, and cheating were all habits they should have abhorred, but were widely spread throughout the Witch trials

-Hysteria; mass hysteria causing false accusations left and right

-Revenge; People use the witch trials to accuse people with whom they have old grudges with

Characters who are tested, do they pass / fail (crucible; a severe test)

The Reverend Mr. Hale, described by Miller as an “eager-eyed intellectual” who nevertheless believes in Cotton Mather’s spirit world writings, begins his investigations into witchcraft with exactitude, noting that “we cannot look to superstition … the Devil is precise.” When he sees the crazed methods of Chief Justice Danforth, condemning farmer John Proctor at the word of his accuser Abigail Williams, Hale speaks his mind, saying he believes Proctor, while Abigail “has always struck me false.” Ultimately his intellect is tried to the point where he quits the court rather than disobey his own conscience.

The unhappiest moral failure is that of Mary Warren, Proctor’s serving girl, who steps forward to denounce Abigail and the other girls who accuse half the town of witchcraft. Savagely, Abigail distorts Mary’s testimony by crying out to invisible spirits while her cohorts repeat Mary’s words, as if trapped in a satanic catechism. Mary, tested by truth, regresses to lying and turns her testimony against Proctor, yelling “you’re the Devil’s man.” She then retreats into the wolf-pack of accusing women, Proctor’s words echoing in her ear: “God d***s liars, Mary.”

The real John Proctor was 60 when executed in 1692; shrewdly, Miller rewrites him as a family man, in his mid-30s, with much to lose. Proctor confesses falsely to witchcraft for the arguably noble reason of avoiding loss for his wife and children. But his test is more severe, as he refuses to publish the signed confession. Miller adds an existential strain of self-realization as Proctor cries, “It is my name … I cannot have another in my life.” Proctor’s sense of self wins out, and he passes his test, tearing his confession to shreds.

The most poignant character is Proctor’s wife Elizabeth, who is severely tested twice. When Danforth questions her about Proctor’s adultery with Abigail, Elizabeth tells what Hale calls “a natural lie” and absolves her husband; she is agonized when she realizes the truth condemns them both. Far worse is her final test at play’s end, when Hale begs her to turn Proctor from his suicidal self-martyrdom. She refuses — “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” — and stands alone, purified beyond fear.

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