The crucible Portfolio Essay
THE CRUCIBLE 1
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Inthe play ‘The Crucible’, Arthur Miller takes an approachthat examines the society’s social norms from a criticalperspective. Particularly, he uses themes that touch on the society’sconsideration of what is right and what is wrong. The play containsreligious, political and communal leitmotifs that structure itsoverall message. Perhaps the most outstanding theme is intolerance inthe society. The play addresses a form of social intolerance,modern-day with hunting, by drawing from the historical happenings ofthe Salem witch trial and McCarthyism
Atthe time of the setting of the play, there was absolutely no room fordeviation from the society’s social norms. The people that weredeemed to not to be part of the larger society were categoricallypicked and victimized. A particular element of deviation from thesocial norms, from historical times, was participating in witchcraft.Almost all the society’s problems were blamed on the activities ofthe witches. The play begins with an act of witchcraft, where girlsare practicing a form of ritual which leaves one of them to beassumed dead or possessed. Fundamentally, the playwright uses thisscene to show the way that the society did not tolerate any personwhose private life did not conform to the morals that wereuniversally accepted. During the Salem witch trials, there wereseveral prosecutions and executions of people who were suspected ofparticipating in witchcraft (Upham, 2013). Using the historicalcontext of the condemnation and intolerance during the trials, theplaywright used the girls’ activities to show the modern society’sintolerance towards divergent indulgences. Along the plot, somepeople are falsely accused of participating in witchcraft, leading totheir prosecutions without follow ups. This facilitated mass hysteriain the society, which established a similarity between the play’stime of production and the time of the Salem witch trials.
Theperiod of McCarthyism was characterized by false accusations,prosecutions and executions without proper trial (Aziz, 2016). In theplay, there are many characters who are falsely accused ofparticipating in witchcraft, or being witchcrafts themselves. Knowingclearly that there were no significant follow-ups to prove theaccused innocent or guilty, the accusers made random allegations. Theelement of McCarthyism is important to Miller as it helped him tofurther highlight the theme of social intolerance. He had himselfbeen subject modern-day witch hunting, being suspected of being acommunist (Mojdegani, 2016). During his time, many people had beenostracized in suspicion of being communists. Acts of communism duringhis time were likened to the illegal activities of the witches fromhistorical times. This treatment of people on mere suspicion wassimilar to the treatment of suspected witches during the Salem witchtrials. McCarthyism, from the playwright’s point of view, created adeep rift between the ideology of free-thinkers and those thatconfined to the society’s popular norms.
By placing the play in the historical context of the Salem witchtrials and McCarthyism, the playwright magnifies the theme ofintolerance in the play. The historical contexts enable the audienceto understand the boundless means of resorting to communal purity,which, however, poisoned the very fabric of liberal co-existence.While the underlying logic of the society’s judgments was order andlaw, it culminated in the crafting and sustenance of socialintolerance. In the long run, unwarranted with hunts andinstitutionalized McCarthyism were some of the main reasons,according to the author’s perspective, that ruined the society’sliberality.
Aziz, A. (2016). Using the Past toIntervene in the Present: Spectacular Framing in Arthur Miller`s TheCrucible. NewTheatre Quarterly, 32(02),169-180.
Mojdegani, F. (2016). The NewHistoricist Reading of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. CanadianSocial Science, 12(7),13-17.
Upham, C. W. (2013). Salemwitchcraft. New York,NY: Courier Corporation.
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