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The Crucible


The Crucible Arthur Miller – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Crucible

The Crucible
  • Arthur Miller

Salem Witchcraft Trials
  • The Salem witch trials were a series of trials
    and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft
    in Massachusetts in 1692.
  • This was a serious offense during this time and
    was the people who were found guilty were hanged
    or pressed to death for their crime.

  • A crucible is a tool used for melting a substance
    that requires a high degree of heat. (chemistry
  • a severe, difficult test or situation.

Miller Monroe
  • His next play was not produced until 1964. After
    the Fall, a work about a lawyer named Quentin
    coming to grips with his turbulent past and
    self-perceived moral inadequacy, was influenced
    by Miller's tumultuous five-year marriage
    (1956-1961) to pop-icon Marilyn Monroe.
  • Millers most recent play, Finishing the
    Picture--based on the making of the 1961 film The
    Misfits, which he wrote for Monroe--premiered in
    October 2004.

  • "By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime
    business of a play is to arouse the passions of
    its audience so that by the route of passion may
    be opened up a new relationship between a man and
    men, and between men and Man. Drama is akin to
    the other inventions of man in that it ought to
    help us know more, and not merely to spend our
    feelings." ?
  • Arthur Miller
  • 1915-2005

Influencing Factors
  • Born in Manhattan in 1915 to Jewish immigrants,
    Miller was shaped by the failure of his father's
    garment manufacturing business in the late 1920s.
  • Witnessing the social decay caused by the
    Depression and his father's desperation had a
    tremendous impact on Miller and his writing.
  • Millers work condemned the American ideal of
    prosperity on the grounds that few can pursue it
    without making dangerous moral compromises.

Pioneer of American drama
  • Miller gained fame with his plays All My Sons
    (1947) Death of a Salesman (winner of the 1949
    Pulitzer Prize for Drama)
  • His work examines the disillusioned terrain of
    the human heart as well as "the work of the
    individual conscience when pitted against the
    uniform thinking of the mob" (New Yorker).
  • Miller condemned the American ideal of prosperity
    on the grounds that few can pursue it without
    making dangerous moral compromises.

The Cold War in America
The Red Scare
  • Shortly after the end of World War I, a Red
    Scare took hold of the nation. Named after the
    red flag of the USSR (now Russia), the Reds
    were seen as a threat to the democracy of the
    United States.
  • Fear, paranoia, and hysteria gripped the nation,
    and many innocent people were questioned and then
    jailed for expressing any view which was seen as
    anti-Democratic or anti-American.
  • In June of 1940, Congress passed the Alien
    Registration Act, which required anyone who was
    not a legal resident of the United States to file
    a statement of their occupational and personal
    status, which included a record of their
    political beliefs.
  • The House Un-American Activities Committee
    (HUAC), which was established in 1938, had the
    job of investigating those who were suspected of
    attempting to overthrow or threatening the
    democracy of the U.S.

HUAC-ing Hollywood
  • As the Alien Registration Act gathered the
    information, the HUAC began hunting down those
    who were believed to be a threat to American
  • The HUAC established that Communist beliefs were
    being spread via mass media. At this time, movies
    were becoming more liberal, and therefore, were
    believed to be a threat many felt that Hollywood
    was attempting to propagandize Communist beliefs.
  • In September of 1947, the HUAC subpoenaed
    nineteen witnesses (most of whom were actors,
    directors, and writers) who had previously
    refused to comment, claiming their Fifth
    Amendment rights. Eleven of the seventeen were
    called to testify only one actually spoke on the
    standthe remaining ten refused to speak and were
    labeled the Hollywood Ten.

  • After these infamous ten refused to speak,
    executives from the movie industry met to decide
    how best to handle the bad press. They decided to
    suspend all ten without pay. Although the initial
    intention was to save their box office
    reputation, what eventually resulted was as
    decade-long blacklist.
  • Hundreds of people who worked in the industry
    were told to point the finger naming those who
    had any affiliation with the Communist party. As
    a result, over 200 people lost their jobs and
    were unable to find anyone who would hire them.
    The Communist with-hunt ruined the careers of
    hundreds, and ruined the reputation of hundreds

Joseph McCarthy
  • In February of 1950, a Republican senator from
    Wisconsin names Joseph McCarthy claimed to have a
    list of over 200 card-carrying members of the
    Communist party. By 1951, a new flourish of
    accusations began and a new wave were subpoenaed
    to name namesto snitch on those who were
    Communists or believed to be Communist
    sympathizers. Later, the terms McCarthy Trials
    and McCarthyism were coined, which described the
    anti-Communist movement and trials of the 1950s.

  • McCarthyism came to mean false charges of
  • In September 1950, goaded by McCarthy, Congress
    passed the McCarran Internal Security Act, which
    established a Subversive Activities Control Board
    to monitor Communist influence in the United

Giving birth to fear
  • As Cold War paranoia pervaded the country, Miller
    penned his third major play, The Crucible (1953),
    as a response to these McCarthy trials.
  • Three years later, he was called to testify
    before the House Committee on Un-American
    Activities (HUAC) and was convicted of contempt
    of Congress for refusing to name those he knew to
    have Communist sympathies (he was eventually
    cleared of the charges).

  • Miller admitted to the HUAC that he had attended
    meetings, but denied that he was a Communist.
  • He had attended, among others, four or five
    writer's meetings sponsored by the Communist
    Party in 1947, supported a Peace Conference at
    the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, and signed many
    appeals and protests.
  • Refusing to name others who had associated with
    leftist or suspected Communist groups, Miller was
    cited for contempt of Congress

  • McCarthys influence continued until 1954, when
    the Senate censured him for abusing his
    colleagues. His career collapsed.
  • Fears of subversion continued though. Communities
    banned books teachers, academics, civil
    servants, and entertainers lost jobs unwarranted
    attacks ruined lives.

Millers Crucible
Universal Connections
  • Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory, a work
    that represents something much deeper, between
    the 1690 Salem witch trials and the current
    events that were spreading throughout the United
    States at the time.
  • The play warned that a similar witch hunt was
    happening in the United Statesand this time, the
    accused were those who were a part of the
    Communist Party or who were Communist

A universal connection
  • At first I rejected the idea of a play on the
    subject. My own rationality was too strong, I
    thought, to really allow me to capture this
    wildly irrational outbreak. A drama cannot merely
    describe an emotion, it has to become that
  • But gradually, over weeks, a living connection
    between myself and Salem, and between Salem and
    Washington, was made in my mindfor whatever else
    they might be, I saw that the hearings in
    Washington were profoundly and avowedly
    ritualistic. After all, in almost every case the
    Committee knew in advance what they wanted the
    witness to give them the names of his comrades
    in the Communist Party. The FBI had long since
    infiltrated the Party, and informers had long ago
    identified the participants in various meetings.

A universal connection
  • The main point of the hearings, precisely as in
    seventeenth-century Salem, was that the accused
    make public confession, damn his confederates as
    well as his Devil master, and guarantee his
    sterling new allegiance by breaking disgusting
    old vowswhereupon he was let loose to rejoin the
    society of extremely decent people. In other
    words, the same spiritual nugget lay folded
    within both proceduresan act of contrition done
    not in solemn privacy but out in public air.
  • -Arthur Miller

A universal connection
  • In effect, it came down to a governmental decree
    of moral guilt that could easily be made to
    disappear by ritual speech intoning names of
    fellow sinners and recanting former beliefs.
  • This last was probably the saddest and truest
    part of the charade, for by the early 1950s there
    were few, and even fewer in the arts, who had not
    left behind their illusions about the Soviets.
  • It was this immaterial element, the surreal
    spiritual transaction, that now fascinated me,
    for the rituals of guilt and confession followed
    all the forms of a religious inquisition, except,
    of course, that the offended parties were not God
    and his ministers but a congressional committee
  • -A. Miller

The Puritans
  • Mrs. Snipes

Who were the Puritans?
  • Puritans were a branch of the Protestant church
  • Their movement began in the 16th and 17th
  • Although they preferred to be called the godly,
    they were given the name Puritans for their
    struggle to reform or purify the Church of

Two Types of Puritans
  • Separatists
  • Held irreconcilable differences with the Church
    of England they thought the church was corrupt
    and that they must distance themselves from i
  • Were persecuted under various monarchies in
  • First fled from England to Holland
  • Later, came to found the Plymouth Colony in
    America in 1620
  • Non-Separatists
  • Held less extreme views of the Church of England
  • Believed in church reform rather than an
    overthrow of the church
  • Came to America in 1630 and founded the
    Massachusetts Bay Colony

Doctrine of Election / Predestination
  • Man is innately sinful original sin means that
    we are incapable of any depravity
  • Only those who are chosen by God (the elect) are
    saved salvation is not based on your beliefs or
    good works
  • The grace of Christ allows the chosen the
    strength to follow the will of God
  • The chosen will follow the path of righteousness

Predestination continued
  • No one knew who was or was not saved.
    Puritans believed that you must have a conversion
    experience in order to be accepted by God. Gods
    grace was given to the chosen, and this grace was
    demonstrated through ones behavior. Puritans
    would, therefore, reflect upon themselves
    (self-examination) for signs of this grace. So,
    even though they did not believe good works
    helped one get into heaven, they believed that
    living a godly life was evidence of being chosen.

As a result of their belief in predestination,
  • Were always looking for signs
  • Scrutinized daily events
  • Thought there was always a reason for everything
  • Felt that Gods hand was in everything, no matter
    how insignificant

Puritan Beliefs Values
  • Puritans believed in a literal interpretation of
    the Bible
  • They believed in explicit readings of the Bible,
    as opposed to church doctrines
  • They did not believe in excess worship they
    wanted no rituals, adornments, no stained glass,
    no cushioned pews, no singing, and no music
  • They wanted to keep things simple so that they
    could concentrate on God
  • There is a constant struggle between the forces
    of God and Satan
  • God rewards the good and punishes the wicked

Education Work Ethic
  • They believed in
  • living a virtuous, self-examined life
  • strict discipline and had a strong work ethic
  • They felt that qualities that led to economic
    success were virtuous
  • They valued education
  • Harvard was founded in 1636 to train ministers
  • They wanted their children to get far away from
    the evils of England
  • Children were not allowed to play games boys
    were taught to go hunting and fishing, while
    girls were taught how to run a household
  • Women were considered less capable
    intellectually, physically, theologically, and
    morally (Eve was the first sinner)
  • Literature for pleasure was highly censored

Puritan Literature Writings
  • They did not write for pleasure or entertainment.
    One reason was the fact that they were struggling
    to built their settlement. Another reason was the
    fact that they considered works of fiction
    frivolous and possibly immoral.
  • Types of texts
  • - historical documents preserving their history
    and offering justifications to relieve the guilt
    they felt over leaving relatives behind in
  • - personal journals as tools for
    self-reflection/ examination and as a way to look
    for signs of salvation
  • - poetry, but highly inspired by religious
  • - religious tracts

Puritan Plain Style
  • Plain Style a mode of expression characterized
    by its clarity, accessibility, straightforwardness
    , simplicity, and lack of ornamentation. In early
    America, the plain style aesthetic had broad
    cultural relevance, shaping the language of prose
    and poetry, the design of furniture and
    architecture, painting and other visual arts.
    Rejecting ornamental flourishes and superfluous
    decoration as sinful vanity, plain stylists
    worked to glorify God in their expressions rather
    than to show off their own artistry or claim any
    renown for themselves. This aesthetic appealed to
    both Puritans and Quakers.

The Crucible
  • Play overview

  • Set in the village of Salem, Massachusetts in
    1692, The Crucible tells the story of what
    happens when the town's pastor, Reverend Parris,
    spies his young daughter, Betty, and a group of
    other girls from his church, dancing in the
  • Betty is in a coma and her cousin, Abigail,
    admits that they were indeed dancing and accuses
    Betty of faking her illness to escape punishment.
    A neighbor, Ann Putnam arrives and says that her
    daughter is behaving strangely also, and that she
    has heard the rumor that Betty has been seen
    flying like a witch.
  • Putnam declares her suspicion that Parris's
    slave, Tituba has been introducing the girls to
    native spiritual rituals and practices. Reverend
    Hale is called in for a consultation on whether
    this is a case of some evil invading the
  • Once the charge of possible witchcraft is
    leveled, there is no turning back for the people
    of Salem. As the play progresses we learn of the
    disputes and jealousies that resided in this
    farming community whose law is the dogma of their
    faith and whose judges must uphold not only the
    law but the authority and power of the church.

Major Characters
  • John Proctor He is outspoken and well respected.
    He has stopped going to church and wrestles with
    telling the truth or protecting his wife
    Elizabeth. ?
  • Elizabeth Proctor ?John's wife who has discovered
    his affair. She is a virtuous woman but struggles
    to show Proctor affection after her discovery. ?
  • Danforth ?deputy governor of Massachusetts and
    the presiding judge at the witch trials. Honest
    and scrupulous, at least in his own mind,
    Danforth is convinced that he is doing right in
    rooting out witchcraft.
  • Mary Warren ?Proctors servant she struggles to
    tell the truth during the trial.
  • Reverend John Hale ?A self appointed expert on
    witchcraft, he is the minister who is first
    called in to investigate the happenings in Salem.
  • Giles Corey ?A farmer and one of the oldest and
    most outspoken men in the community.
  • Francis Nurse ?One of the most respected elders
    in town, he is the husband to Rebecca.
  • Rebecca Nurse ?A much revered woman in the town
    who is a midwife and mother of 17 children.
  • Abigail Williams ?An orphan and Rev. Parris'
    19-year-old niece, she leads the other girls in
    the accusations. She has recently been fired from
    the service of the Proctors after Elizabeth
    discovers she and Proctor were having an affair.?
  • Reverend Samuel Parris ?Salems minister who has
    not found popularity in the small town,
    especially with John Proctor. ?
  • Betty ?Parris 10-year-old daughter who is caught
    dancing in the woods. After she falls ill,
    rumors of witchcraft blaze through town.
  • Tituba ?Rev. Parris' slave from Barbados who has
    taught the girls about spirits. ?
  • Thomas Putman ?A mean spirited and wealthy
    landowner who covets his neighbors' property. He
    is accused of coercing his daughter to accuse
    people in order to gain their land. ?
  • Ann Putman ?His wife, who is embittered by the
    still births of seven babies. She blames
    supernatural forces for their deaths.

Themes, motifs, and other relevant ideas
Abuse of Power
  • An overriding theme of The Crucible is the abuse
    of power. The power of the church and its
    ministers to the Puritan community is paramount
    to the whole witchcraft trial. Miller creates a
    world where the authorities of the church and
    town use fear as a method of controlling the
    people of the town and the townspeople use the
    compensating defense of invoking the power of
    gossip and slander.
  • Scholar and philosopher, Lord Actin (1834-1902)
    has been credited with the saying "Power
    corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
    In the story of the Salem witch trials, Miller is
    able to show the domino effect of that
    corruption. In the end the only people left
    standing are awaiting the hangman's noose. The
    Crucible reminds us that we must always question
    the status quo, as well as the power structures
    and authorities that we allow--by our vote and
    consent--to govern us.

  • The question is not the reality of witches but
    the power of authority to define the nature of
    the real, and the desire, on the part of
    individuals and the state, to identify those
    whose purging will relieve a sense of anxiety and
    guilt. What lay behind the procedures of both
    witch trial and political hearings was a familiar
    American need to assert a recoverable innocence
    even if the only guarantee of such innocence lay
    in the displacement of guilt onto others. To
    sustain the integrity of their own names, the
    accused were invited to offer the names of
    others, even though to do so would be to make
    them complicit in procedures they despised and
    hence to damage their sense of themselves. And
    here is a theme that connects virtually all of
    Millers plays betrayal, of the self is no less
    than that of others.
  • C. Bigsby

Seductive nature of power
  • Beyond anything else The Crucible is a study in
    power and the mechanisms by which power is
    sustained, challenged, and lostIn the landscape
    of The Crucible, on the one hand stands the
    church, which provides the defining language
    within which all social, political, and moral
    debate is conducted. On the other stand those
    usually deprived of powerthe black slave Tituba
    and the young childrenwho suddenly gain access
    to an authority as absolute as that which had
    previously subordinated themThose socially
    marginalized move to the very center of social
    actionThe Crucible is a play about the seductive
    nature of power

Universal Appeal
  • The Crucible is Arthur Millers most
    frequently produced play not, I think, because it
    addresses affairs of the state nor even because
    it offers us the tragic sight of a man who dies
    to save his conception of himself and the world,
    but because audiences understand all too well
    that the breaking of charity is no less a truth
    of their own lives than it is an account of
    historical processes
  • The Crucible reminds us how fragile is our grasp
    on those shared values that are the foundation of
    any society.
  • C. Bigsby

  • the plays success now owes little to the
    political and social context in which it was
    written. It stands, instead, as a study of the
    debilitating power of guilt, the seductions of
    power, the flawed nature of the individual and of
    the society to which the individual owes
  • It stands as a testimony to the ease with which
    we betray those very values essential to our
    survival, but also the courage with which some
    men and women can challenge what seems to be a
    ruling orthodoxy.
  • -C. Bigsby

  • Christopher Bigsby. Introduction to The Crucible.
    Penguin Books. 1995.
  • Colonials information Carrie Snipes