The Crucible Theme Paper BY joeyl 24 Throughout literary history, good versus evil has always been a present theme. “The Crucible”, written by Arthur Miller, represents each aspect of the morality spectrum. The picture of a man and a village boiling in a conflict of reputation and hysteria entwine to develop the main themes of the play: the challenge that comes with making the right choice and the use of ignorance as a means revenge and preserving ones reputation. Both these themes take place in the context of the larger, earlier mentioned, struggle of good versus evil.
Director Elia Kazan had a very interesting take on hysteria that applies to that demonstrated in the novel, “Whatever hysteria exists is inflamed by mystery, suspicion and secrecy. Hard and exact facts will cool it. ” In “The Crucible”, hysteria consumed whatever rational thoughts people were having and caused them to think that their neighbors, who they had known for the majority of their lives, were committing absurd and, believable crimes. Whenever the devil is referred to, a glimpse is given into the manifestation of the hysteria felt by every character.
As Giles stated, “… the Devil’s touch is heavier than sick. It’s death, yknow, it”s death drivin’ into them, forked and hoofed. ” (1221 Miller. ) The source of the townspeople’s hysterics is the presence of evil, the Devil, within their lives; the unknown is an unsettling thought. In “The Crucible”, the townspeople provoke this dramatic environment not only in the name of God, but also because it gives them a chance to act out towards their resentments. This is apparent when Abigail uses the situation to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and have her sent to Jail.
However, Abigail is not the only character who relies on the theatrics of hysteria: Reverend Parris invigorates his position within the village by making fools of people like Proctor who question his ascendancy. In addition to the reverend, Thomas Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Francis’s wife, convicted of the supernatural murders of Ann Putnam’s babies. Hysteria can thrive only because people benefit from it. It perpetuates natural law and sanctions the acting out of every dark desire and execrative urge under the cover of righteousness.
In other words, hysteria Justifies revenge Another present theme within “The Crucible” is reputation. Reputation is somewhat of a foundation for the people of Salem, where everyone’s ethics are the same. In a time where reputation was everything, a fear of guilt by association began to rise and take form among the curious minds of the townsfolk. People began to fear that the reputations of their friends would ruin their good name. Several characters act the way they do to protect their reputations.
For example, John Proctor tries to preserve his reputation. Early in the play, he has an opportunity to end the girls’ allegations; however, his undying need to keep his untarnished reputation stops him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, morality overpowers notoriety and he chooses not to give a false testimony. “l have given you my soul; leave me my name! ” he cries to Danforth in Act ‘V. By refusing to essentially lie to preserve reputation, he absolves his earlier sins and dies with integrity before the eyes of the Lord.
Finally, both hysteria and eputation tie into the greater, underlying themes of good versus evil and fear of the unknown. The people of Salem and their reputations can be generalized as good; this evil presence, whatever it may be, because it is foreign to them. As Abigail so clearly states, “Satan may reach anyone sir,” and that in itself is a fearful thought, is it not? In summation, “The Crucible” is heavily weighted on the way preconceived notions and societal standards can shape a person’s actions, especially in the name of the Lord.
John Proctor captures this perfectly when he states, “Hell and Heaven grapple on our backs, and all our old pretenses ripped away. God’s icy wind will blow. ” Arthur Miller wrote with the main ideas of the plot revolving around reputation, hysteria, and revenge. However, Miller also believed that, “Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action? ” and it would seem that his philosophy, along with the Salem Witch Trials, greatly influenced “The Crucible. “