The Crucible – Arthur Miller (Study Guide)

Abigail Williams
– on the surface, she is simple and motivated by lust
– feels taken advantage of
– most powerless (orphan, teenager, indentured servant)
– suddenly goes from no power at all to lots of power in the play

Betty Parris
– motivated by fear
– strong fear of her father (Reverend Parris) finding out what actually happened in the woods

Reverend Parris
– selfish
– there is a sense that he is violent
– thinks about his own job right away and his own reputation

Tituba
– motivated by fear
– confesses to witch craft to save her own life
– least powerful and has the most to fear
– enslaved woman from Barbados

Reverend Hale
– sees himself as an intellectual
– only judge who is capable of reason
– can be objective to evidence

Thomas Putnam
– greedy/hungry for money and land
– tends to blame neighbors
– believes/blames everything bad happening to him on witchcraft

Ann Putnam
– all of her children (except one) died
– needs to find out why her children died
– blames witchcraft

John Proctor
– “hero” of the play but also very flawed
– affair with Abigail Williams
– respected in the beginning
– sees through lies easily

Elizabeth Proctor
– selfless: straight away thinks of other people than herself
– ability to have self reflection (ex: blames herself for when John Proctor cheats on her)

Mary Warren
– timid, 1st thought was to disassociate herself from Abigail
– easy to manipulate
– has strong/similar personality to Abigail

Rebecca Nurse
– old, wise, exists for the good of others
– sensible
– rational
– truly religious

Giles Corey
– stubborn, likes getting his own way
– sues for smallest things
– likable to readers

Deputy Governor Danforth
– cannot compromise
– must have his own way

Judge Hathorne
– loves the court proceedings
– likes the power he holds
– seems to enjoy the trials

Left and Right Symbolism
– Archetypal Dichotomy: Miller reverses our expectations to show how certain characters and certain places that should be associated with good are actually evil
– left and right are mixed up in the beginning of the play to show readers how the leader of the town (who is supposed to be good) is actually the evil/corrupt household

“Pretense” and Truth
– pretense: Abigail, Mercy, Betty, Suzanna
– truth: Giles, Rebecca, John, Elizabeth
– people believed Pretense: Danforth, Hathorne, Parris
– people who saw the truth: Hale

Yellow Bird Symbolism
– supposed to be Marry Warren’s familiar spirit
– song birds are also birds who are caged
– “canary in a coal mine” – an expression to mean a warning

Crucible Symbolism
– a crucible: a container used for melting metals, withstand very high temperatures
– anything in the crucible (even strongest) can be melted in a high enough temperature
– metals in the crucible typically cave in on themselves, Miller is saying that it doesn’t take much for a society to dissolve/collapse in on itself

Main Themes
– human beings naturally make mistakes
– there is no such thing as pure good or pure evil