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The book The Crucible is the work of Arthur Miller, a celebrated playwright, which reflects on the mass cultural and political hysteria facing the town of Salem. It was when the government of America was trying to suppress the activities of communism and any radical leftist activity within the country. The Crucible dives deep into explaining the tension between the authoritarian forces of social order and personal freedom (Aziz & Korsten, 2021). The play’s initial origins are written as a criticism of McCarthyism, which is the practice of making allegations without proper supporting evidence. The play is made up of many characters who are involved throughout the play to bring out well the themes portrayed in the play. The main character involved more than the others is John Proctor, an honest and blunt-spoken person with a secret and fatal weakness. The play, which has John Proctor as its tragic figure, is structured much like a classical tragedy. John Proctor is a central character in the play who is faced with conflict concerning his reputation and helps in the literary analysis of the play, especially the tone and foreshadowing.
Reputation is a significant theme that is portrayed throughout the play. In theocratic Salem, where personal and public morality is synonymous, reputation is crucial. Reputation was so important for the theme of this play that the characters dreaded the issue of guilt by association which could have been harmful for this kind of setting. The residents of Salem are concerned with upholding their good reputations and must be concerned that the transgressions of their associates would tarnish their names (Ibrahim & Hussein, 2021). They wish to preserve their reputations is the motivation behind the acts of many personalities. Proctor is a proud man who greatly emphasizes upholding his reputation. The character of John Proctor was developed in various ways throughout the play, affecting the plot of the story. The beginning of all this is after he is involved in a scandalous affair with the niece of the Reverend called Abigail Williams. This incident brought about a series of unfortunate events termed the Salem Witch Trials. He lusted for Abigail, which led to their affair, creating Abigail’s jealousy of Elizabeth, who is Proctor’s wife. Abigail has a group of teenage girls who she indulges in practices of witchcraft to end the life of Elizabeth. Proctor does not want any person to know what they did and tries to protect this secret tied to his reputation in the community. He also realizes that he cannot stop the rampage of Abigail through Salem without confessing to adultery. Later on, he owns up to his mistakes and realizes that he made a mistake when he says, “I speak my sins, I cannot judge another. Crying out, with hatred: I have no tongue for it.” (Miller, 2015). He finally overcomes all his conflicts and accepts his crime.
The tone in literary work refers to the mood portrayed by the author’s choice of words and the feeling the text brings to the reader. The tone in the play is a cautionary one and is unsympathetic mainly because of how the characters are actively involved in the creation of the disastrous events. Proctor is at the center of how these unfortunate events come to occur. The whole literature work shows how Proctor navigates through various conflicts, decisions, and characteristic growths (Taylor, 2020). The town of Salem, whose citizens temporarily do not have their sense of connectedness and demonize one another, is essentially the opposition in The Crucible. However, the excitement surrounding the witch hunts reveals long-hidden grudges and resentments. Proctor’s goal to bring back reason in the town predates the witch hunt. The tone of the play was serious and very tragic.
Foreshadowing is commonly used to create suspension and tension in the narrative for the audience. In The Crucible, Miller foreshadows the fate of Proctor by presenting him in this way, even though all the other people in the play who have been blamed for witchcraft may be considered victims of calumny. John Proctor is introduced initially as someone who won’t tolerate folly or hypocrisy. A Proctor is usually a target for slander because “a fool realized his idiocy instantaneously in Proctor’s presence.” (Miller, 2015). The precise meaning of “calumny” is a false statement meant to defame a person’s reputation, which is precisely what occurs to Proctor when he is accused of practicing witchcraft (Koorey, 2019). In the beginning, he is shown as a person whose moral convictions and intense remorse predestine him to a terrible fate.
The Crucible extensively explains the conflict between the authoritarian powers of societal order and individual freedom. Many different characters are involved in bringing out the major theme of reputation. The main character, John Proctor, is used to bring out different literary elements used in the play. Miller was keen to use specific literary devices like the tone, foreshadowing, and the theme of reputation to deliver the work to the audience. It is an excellent play to read and study.
- Aziz, A., & Korsten, F. (2021). Theatre as intervention: Responsibility/Irresponsibility or literature’s classical role in democracy and Miller’s The Crucible. English Studies, 102(8), 1142-1150. https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838x.2021.1984087
- Ibrahim, H. M., & Hussein, J. Q. (2021). Lying in Arthur Miller’s the crucible: A pragmatic study. Journal of the College of Education for Women, 32(3), 43-59. https://doi.org/10.36231/coedw.v32i3.1522
- Koorey, S. (2019). Critical insights: The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The Arthur Miller Journal, 14(2), 133-135. https://doi.org/10.5325/arthmillj.14.2.0133
- Miller, A. (2015). The crucible. Bloomsbury Publishing.
- Taylor, A. (2020). undefined. The Arthur Miller Journal, 15(2), 186-190. https://doi.org/10.5325/arthmillj.15.2.0186