A Literary Analysis Featuring the Abuse of Power in The Crucible by Arthur Miller
An article/essay featuring the abuse of power in The Crucible (by Arthur Miller) using quote analysis and other literary devices used The use of Power in The Crucible Would you live your life with a tainted name or die protecting it? Article featuring: the destructive and redemptive power of love in The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, and why Arthur Miller is the master of drama in the 20th Century. The Crucible, a modern tragedy, 1953, is a sombre play and an analogy of the McCarthyism era by Arthur Milleras it denotes aconflict of authority, self-interest and most importantly the abuse of power that leads to the killing of nineteen men and women and one man, Giles Corey, who is pressed to death; which is all a mimesis that dates back to 1692, a time of Salem witch-hunt, of Miller’s own writing, where the society is subject to communism, or parallelincidence tothe ‘witch-hunts’.
The play, however, is still relevant to this day as the terrorism experienced nowadays can be viewed as the modern equivalent of both communism and ‘witch-hunts’. Miller also constructs an ideal combination of the destructive power, mainly through Abigail’s resentment and scorn, Putnam’s corrupt greed and Danforth’s haughty abuse of power, with the redemptive power of love, by means of John’s will to die to defend his name, Elizabeth’s white lies for her husband and Giles’ willingness to die in contempt of the court. The text of The Crucible also indicates why this modern drama is the best our society has ever come across as Miller achieves a flawless integration of tragedy by the use of language techniques, symbolic plot, characterisation and the use oftension and climax, which this play is all about. Miller largely signifies the power of destructive love with the character of Abigail Williams as she is the antagonist of the plot, which is made apparent by the fact that she danced in the forest and how she schemed nineteen people to their deaths bythe false witch craft accusations to safeguard herself from her own punishment, as she states to Betty Parris upon her interrogation, “Shut up! All of you. We danced. That is all, and mark this, let either of you breathe a word or the edge of a word about the other things, I will come to you in the black of some terrible night, and I will bring with me a pointy reckoning that will shudder you!”and “I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down…”
The playing on fears and the extent of language used to manipulate her fellow girls denotes just how ruthless, wily and vindictive Abigail is. This also denotes the intense malevolence destructive characters have to benefitthemselves from the terrified Puritan community, which believes in the existence of demonic possession. Also, Abigail uses the witch craft trialsto her advantage when she becomes witness of the court and hopes to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor for her dismissal from her service, by accusing her of witchcraft, as she is responsible for her resentment and scorn. Other characters that portray the power of destructive love are Mr and Mrs Putnam, who use their daughter as well as theother witnesses of the courtto accuse people whose property they covet, by giving them names, such as of Martha Corey, which reflects on how McCarthyism worked during the writing of this play, parallel to the ‘witch-hunts’. Also, Mr Putnam threatens Giles not to go through his land, contiguous to John Proctor, by saying, “… you load one oak of mine and you’ll fight to drag it home,” which portends the apparent action Mr Putnam would take to suffer Giles’ family with calumniation later in the play, as well as connoting the self-interest and the narrow bounds of human egotismas seen in the Puritan community in Salem.
Another character who depicts the power of destructive love is the Deputy Governor Danforth, who, with entire conceited misjudgement, fails to examine the evidence critically or act rightfully to stop the hysteria. Even at the end, when it is clear that the society is disintegrating, he refuses to see the role that the witchcraft trials and hangings have played, as he intimidates Marry Warren, by saying, “You are either lying now or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it,” combined with his exploitation of people, such as John Proctor, by making his private affairs public and attached, which is manifest to the reader, Miller displays an autocracy in the theocratic government of Salem, as Danforth is the only character with absolute power in the whole play, who considers his right to abuse as he misjudges the hysteria of the witch trials around him and the fear of the people; which creates the issue of conflict of authority, signalling that his character isdriven by the idea that mankind must be protected from knowledge; which also connotes to the allegorical possibilities inherent in the domestic familiarity of love, such as authority is a given to a father figure, and also that from the past the man of the present acts prudently so as not to peril the future.
Miller also signifies the power of redemptive love in The Crucible, mainly through John Proctor, who promptly indicates retreat from his earlier mistake: the private business, upon questioning with his wife, as he promises her, “because it speaks deceit, and I am honest! But I’ll plead no more! I see your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!” John also denotes his inner goodness at the time of his wife’s arrest as he confesses with Hale: “If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what we always were in Salem – vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance!” This also marks the boundaries of the society and the laws which embody them.
Moreover, John selflessly confesses to witchcraft as well as opening up his private affairs with Abigail to the court without incriminating others, thereby sacrificing his life for the false witchcraft accusations, as he says, “I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it,” which also connotes to his admitting fault in the affair with Abigail, and yet not pointing his finger at her. Although John confesses to witchcraft, he does not sign the confession as his name is at stake, a reputation which he attempts to save by withholding his confession of an adulterous affair and telling the truth: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” Another character who also displays the redemptive power of love is Elizabeth Proctor, who redeems herself by apologising her husband for her quick willingness to suspect him of wrongdoing, as she confesses, “John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did… It were a cold house I kept;” moreover, she motivates her husband with her best intention to do what is right, like she knows that if John tells the judges and ministers that Abigail is generous then it might cause embarrassment for her family, yet it is the right thing to do to save lives.
Also, the white-lie that she did not dismiss Abigail from her service for harlotry proves to be of moral redemption as she takes the risk of damning herself by lying for John, although it is manifest to the reader that she should have told the truth to stop the hysteria of the witch trials, yet she does this with the best intention as there is a lack of knowledge. Finally, in the end, Elizabeth makes what must be the most difficult decision between a husband and wife: Elizabeth’s willing to lie for her husband to save his life, but she selflessly cannot ask him to do the same; it is no coincidence that Miller chooses the choice of her words in her confession with Hale, “You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep if from such dogs… He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him,” signalling her recognition of the completion of his quest and the audience’s catharsis at the curtain of the play.
Another character who contributes to the power of redemptive love is Giles Corey, who in an attempt to defend his incarcerating, innocent, wife from witch trials, led by his own blundering actions, gets caught in contempt of the court, as he states that at least one accusation is based on Mr Putnam’s corrupt greed for a bit of his land without proof. Giles’ incredible strength of character is indicated in the end, when he neither confesses to, nor denies, the charges of witchcraft. By doing so, he ensures that his following generations can legally inherit his property. Despite being brutally tortured, by having crushingly heavy stones placed on his chest, the only thing Giles says is “More weight.” With his inclination to atone the mistakes of his past, Giles certainlydepicts and attains moral redemption. Furthermore, Millerseamlessly makes the play dramatic with a range of techniques. Firstly, the use of language devices help Miller achieve a great standard as he uses intransitive verbs to make a transitive sentence intransitive combined with the ingenious and violent use of language in phrases, like: “I will come in the black of some terrible night… and bring with me a pointy reckoning that will shudder you,” (Intransitive verb italicised) help Miller denote a strong action without the necessity of using any action words, and at the same time convey the sense of evil (with all its connotation of succubi and incubi) more dramatically, a feature many authors hardly think of.
Also, the choice of words by the author not only make the play appealing, but also intensifying, such as black of some terrible night. Another technique employed by the author is the symbolic plot, such as dualities, which occur all over the play, symbolising the good and the evil; or love and hatred and so on, for example temperature, which connotes both heat: which is sexuality and cold: which is unsexual (unresponsive), and black and white, connoting the blackening of the name and the whitening by tearing the light out of eyes, or the Salem society and forest, connoting the Church and the evil, or order and freedom, connoting the authority, or rule, and self-freedom, or spring and autumn, connoting the season of growth and the conspiracy that goes to fruitation, and so on, helps Miller shape the story and generate sense from it just the way he wants us to perceive it, thereby helping him shape it as flexible and persuasive as possible. Another technique Miller uses is the characterisation, using dynamic characters, such as Reverend Hale, despite the factthat he is not the protagonist of the plot, as he changes his viewpoint from belief (and all the false pride associated with it) to doubt, which is made apparent with the fact that Hale, who is called to Salem to accuse people of witchery in the beginning, later gets convincedthat the towns people are actually innocent and stands up to the court. This feature helps the play stand out unique from the rest. Miller also uses tension and climax to make the play dramatic as The Crucible is a drama of conflict and tension.
Throughout the play there are scenes when conflict arises between people, adding tension to the scene, and this has a good effect on the audience as it keeps them interested and makes them wonder what would happen next. Most scenes that build up tension usually lead to a climax, or the fall of that intensity, such as in Act 2 as the tension builds up with the conversation of John, Elizabeth and Hale, and the arrival of Cheever breaks the tension and brings the climax as he arrests Elizabeth. Miller flawlessly integrates this technique in the court room as well as the start and end of acts, throughout the whole play, such as the end of Act 3 builds intensity in the court room through hysteria, which declines to a comic start, in an underground cell, at the start of Act 4; and the use of a range of techniques displays just why Miller is considered as the master of drama in the twentieth century.
The Crucible is a multi-layered play about Salem tragedy, which developed from the paradox of the cold war in America; which is an allegory of the Un-American activities to prove those accused innocent. While the witchcraft trial is about fear, ignorance and prejudice, Miller constructs a play seizing the destructive and redemptive power of love and beautifully represents three contexts: the context of the play, the writing and ours, displaying the flaws and laws that build up the boundaries of our society, which is relevant to this day, as it teaches us to act prudently in the present so as not to peril the future. The use of a wide range of techniques to make the play dramatic, which is matchless to most others, Arthur Miller earns himself as the master of drama in the twentieth century.