Sunday, August 22, 2010

What is the symbolic importance of the Title Crucible?

Arthur Miller cleverly picked the title "The Crucible" for his play about the Salem witch hunts of the 1660's because of the word's many meanings. Throughout the play, Miller has characters face severe tests that make them question their own self. A crucible is also an earthen pot that is used for melting metals. In a way the town of Salem was a crucible as people were brought before the court and blasted with allegations from others as being witches. They were either forced to give in and live a lie or be hanged.

The term crucible could also be used to describe the heat of the situation. Innocent people were caught up in the witch hunt were thrown into an overheated situation that had been blown completely out of proportion. The crucible may also symbolize Hell. As substances in a crucible melt and disintegrate they form a completely different substance. This could symbolize the society of Salem disintegrating and forming into a completely new one. After the situation had been heated what you are left with are the remnants of society that once existed.
By the end of this play, the true meaning of the word crucible was a severe test. John Proctor underwent the most severe test and as a result his character underwent a drastic change throughout the play. The ultimate test that John Proctor undergoes is the final decision that he makes before he dies. The town of Salem was deeply religious and they were willing to believe the word of a deceitful young girl rather than believe in the integrity of people like John Proctor, Reverend Hale, and Rebecca Nurse.
Throughout the play John Proctor was an honest man, as was his wife, Elizabeth until she was asked to testify against her husband about his affair. One thing that never changed about Proctor throughout the whole play was his willingness to stand for his beliefs. Time after time, he was bombarded with questions about why he didn't regularly attend church or why he didn't have one of his sons baptized. He answered these questions with integrity and questioned the ministry of Parris. No one in the town of Salem had done that before.
Proctor was also undergoing a difficult time in his marriage with Elizabeth and at the beginning he seemed timid to deal with it. The first time that Elizabeth and John are in a scene together the mood is extremely awkward. There is hardly any eye contact or communication between the two. This had been going on for seven months, since Proctor's affair with Abigail Williams.
By the end of the play, the soreness of the subject seemed to disappear and any timidness that Proctor felt also disappeared. In the final two scenes, John Proctor was willing to ruin his name by stating that he did in fact have an affair with Abigail in order to prove the accusers wrong. Before this time, Proctor would not even discuss the issue especially when Abigail approached him in the first scene about it. Abigail claimed that she thought about him and that one night she had with him constantly. Proctor would not reply and wanted nothing to do with the conversation. Proctor wanted to wish that whole night away, as if never happened. He even said that was ashamed of his act. When it came to restoring credibility to the people accused by Abigail he was willing to set aside his personal problems and admit to his adultery.
The ultimate test came at the end when Proctor must decide between confessing and living or dying alongside the wrongly accused people of Salem. He chose the latter, but I do not think the Proctor from Act I would have done this. The Salem Witch Trials changed the man drastically as he appeared to be a stubborn man in the beginning. By the end, Proctor chose to die in the most righteous way, with dignity. In the beginning, Proctor could be described as stubborn and selfish, but by the end of he was anything but these qualities. He was willing to die alongside those that were accused and he refused to take the easy way out the situation by confessing to something he never did. Proctor and the others were unwilling to confess. Instead they stood for the principles of honesty and integrity in order to die noble deaths.
"The Crucible" was a good name for this play because of its originality and how its various meanings seemingly fit into the plot and the various sub-plots of the play. Salem was the perfect setting for the "the Crucible" as the settlers had no place to turn away from the heat, the mayhem, and the severe tests that faced them in the town. The heat of the situation forced the change of John Proctor and the town was forever changed as a result of the trials and the false the accusations.

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