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Themes in The Crucible Essay


A play in which the theme is made clear early on in the action is 'The Crucible' written by the well acclaimed author Arthur Miller in 1953. Miller, with great skill, clearly shows the main themes very early on with the use of a range of techniques such as key scenes, characterisation and dialogue.

The dramatist introduces the theme of greed and vengeance immediately through the use of the narrative technique. We learn that Salem is a theocracy and so people were very repressed and the witch-hunt trials was an opportunity to break free from this. Many people accused those that they had long-held haterds for and those who had a substanstial amount of land. In Act 1.3 we are also introduced to the theme of integrity through the main character and protaganist John Proctor. This theme is greatly developed throughout the play and when we reach the climax in Act 4.4 it is fully realised.

John Proctor, the flawed hero and 'modern man' of the play places tremendous emphasis on the importance of truth and integrity. Miller protrays this by use of key scenes, characterisation and dialogue. In Act 1.3, we gain an insight into this and see him on a personal level. We see his interactions with Abigail Williams, a young and beautiful woman of eighteen and we discover they had a passionate affair. However, Proctor insists that their realtionship is over:

"I may think of you softly from time to time, but I will cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again."

We see here that he has an inner conflict: his wanton and disire for Abigail, and his need to be righteous and good. We hold him in high regard here as he resists temptation to do what he knows to be right.

In Act 1.4, Proctor is shown on a public level and the themes of integrity and greed are developed. Miller adeptly protrays this by use of key scenes, characterisation and dialogue. We see that Proctor is open and honest despite living in a very corrupt society. He patently shows distaste for Parris, the reverend and head of the community who is motivated only by greed: " I am paid little enough without I spend six pound a year to buy firewood."

Proctor refuses to put up with the hypocricy as Parris is supposed to be a man of God and says: " I like not the smell of this authority." In a Purtain context, this sort of comment would be viewed as unacceptable so we see here he is a clear non-conformist with great integrity which increases our admiration for him as it would not be advantageous for himself to challage the Salem authority as in a theocracy, this would be seen as challaging God himself.

The themes of truth and integrity are further developed in Act 2 and we gain a further understanding of Proctor's rejection of social order. Miller again employs key scenes, characterisation and dialogue to sufficiently display this. In Act 2.1 we see the interactions of Proctor and his wife Elizabeth in their home. We see that Proctor is plagued by guilt about the affair - which his wife is fully aware of- and he does his upmost to appease her: " I mean to please you." We see he is contrite and attempting to recify the relationship as best he can.

The themes of truth and integrity is more obviously developed in Act 2.2 in which Reverend Hale from Beverly enters. He enquires as to why Proctor has not has his last child baptized. Proctor again shows intolerence for hypocricy and makes no effort to disguise how much he underrates Parris. He gives this as an explaination: " I see no light of God in that man. I'll not conceal it."

This sort of comment would be deeply frowned upon. However, Proctor shows a genuine belief that Parris is corrupt and he feels he must be honest, which makes our respect and admiration for him grow massively. At the same time, our contempt for the theocratic system grows.

Act 2.3 is the structurally important scene and very climatic. The themes of truth and integrity continue to develop. Again key scenes, characterisation and dialogue helps to convey this. Tensions rise dramatically as Ezekiel Cheever comes on the scene with a warrent to arrest Elizabeth for witchcraft. Proctor, in a fury of rage defies the court by tearing it up. At the end of this climatic scene, his language changes from that of a very physical, sensous nature to biblical which is indicitive of the fact that the situation has worsened: " We are what we always were, but naked now, aye naked! And God's icy wind will blow!"

He realises he might have to pubically declare his sin of lechery in order to save the woman he loves. I feel complete admiration for him here as he is willing to put himself on the line and this shows his magnanious integrity and on going disire for truth.

In the tension-filled and climatic Act 3, which takes place in the courtroom, the themes of truth and integrity intensifies. Key scenes, characterisation and dialogue are used to protray this. In Act 3.2, Proctor is told his wife is pregnant and therefore would be saved for at least another year. Danforth - the highest ranking judge at the proceedings - asks him if he will now drop the charges as he told them Mary Warren - one of the girls involved in the 'crying out' - will testify to it all being lies. He replies: " I think I cannot."

It would be in his own interest to stop here but he doesn't. This makes me feel complete respect for him as he is motivated by the greater good and so bravely continues.

In the climatic Act 3.3 the girls are called into the courtroom and questioned. They continue to deny that the whole witch-hunt fiasco was pretence. When Abigail cries for heaven, Proctor is infruriated and grabs her by the hair: " Whore! Whore!" He realises he must confess his sin of lechery. Any respect he had would diminish so we see how far he is willing to go. Shame-faced, he tells the judges: " I have known her."

By pubically declaring his act of adultery, his honour is increased and we see him as a martyr. We see how exceptional his integrity is and so are left with feelings of pronounced admiration for him.

Act 3.4 is the structurally significant turning point of the play and the theme of integrity deepens. Key scenes, characterisation and dialogue are employed to display this. Elizabeth is summoned to the court to testify and we assume she will collabrate with Proctor's version of events, but ironically, she lies for the first time in her life and denies she has any knowledge of her husband committing lechery. In doing so, she believes she is protecting the man she loves, but ultimately she in fact condems him st this most critical point. The girls are now seen to be honest and Proctor has truly given up all hope. This is shown when he critizes the judges and their proceedings. His dialogue reflects the anger he feels at the injustice of it all: " I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face and yours Danforth!"

The use of powerful, melodramatic word choice and reference to diabloism here is used to convey that Proctor's belief that truth will always overcome evil is lost. We still feel respect for him here as he tried his best but we are left feeling dejected by these morbid and dark circumstances.

In the picvocal, dramatic last act of the play, the final realisation of the theme of integrity is found. This is done through the use of key scenes, dialogue, setting and characterisation. In Act 4.3, Proctor is faced with his tragic dilema. He could confess in order to save his life but by doing so, he would be giving the witch-hunt trials creedence and sacrifice the reputations of those who refuse to lie. On the other hand,he can stick to the truth and be hanged. However, he feels he is unable to "mount the gibbet like a saint" and so is tron and agonizes over the adjuctication.

The audience is left gripped and eager to read on to discover which path he will choose. We have been clearly shown throughout the play that Proctor is a man with high integrity and we hope he will continue to do the right thing in these incredibly difficult circumstances.

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