In Act 4 of The Crucible, what are some metaphor examples?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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John Proctor uses a series of metaphors in his final speech. Addressing Hale and Elizabeth, Proctor describes his realization that he is a good person, or at least a good enough person to meaningfully sacrifice his life in favor of honor. 

He says that he sees a "shred of goodness" in himself and extends this comparison to fabric or thread in saying, "maybe not enough to weave a banner with". 

He goes on to advise Elizabeth not to cry. He tells her to harden her heart, to "show a stony heart and sink them with it". 

These are just two examples of metaphor taken from a single speech given by Proctor in the last act of the play. Earlier in this act, Hale uses metaphors and euphemisms to explain the extent of his guilt, using the term "blood" to represent the idea of guilt. 

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favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The Reverend Hale employs a metaphor when he claims, "There is blood on my head!"  Hale has returned to Salem to counsel the convicted to confess, though it is a lie, because he believes God would rather have them save their lives than keep their honesty in such a situation.  There is not literal blood on Hale's head; he uses the blood as a metaphor for his guilt.  He feels personally responsible for the deaths that have and will occur as a result of the findings of this corrupt court because he didn't stand up to it, he didn't fight it, when he had the chance.  It kept quiet when he had doubts about the guilt of the convicted and the innocence of the girls, and he simply left when he was displeased with the magistrates' decisions.

When Elizabeth and John are speaking, she tells him that "[Rebecca has] one foot in Heaven now; naught may hurt her more."  She means that Rebecca is so close to death, so close to eternal rest, that no one can really hurt her anymore.  Having one foot in heaven is a metaphor for this very late stage in life; it is as though the person described could die any moment, in the time one would need to take a step.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Reverend Parris uses many metaphors to get his point across.  Elizabeth Proctor uses them to repent.

A metaphor is a comparison.  It says that something is something else.  For example, consider Reverend Parris’s metaphor here.

There be a faction here, feeding on that news, and I tell you true, sir, I fear there will be riot here. (Act 4)

Obvious, no one literally “feeds” on news.  It is a metaphor because the people are so in a frenzy that it is as if they are eating the news.  This is an example of a colorful metaphor.  Metaphors can be used to add interest to a story, and make it more interesting.  They can also characterize, depending on who is using the most metaphors.  Parris’s colorful language is appropriate for a preacher.  He uses many metaphors.  Here is another.

This way, unconfessed and claiming innocence, doubts are multiplied, many honest people will weep for them, and our good purpose is lost in their tears. (Act 4)

The metaphors I have placed in bold continue to make Parris’s point in a nonliteral way.  Reverend Parris is used to using words in order to make his point.  He likes to exploit words like he exploits people.  While he is not the only one to use metaphors, his tendency to whip up emotions to suit his purposes makes good use of them.

The Reverend is not the only one who makes good use of metaphors.  Elizabeth also has some good ones.  Another example of a metaphor in Act 4 comes from Elizabeth, who says “I have read my heart this three month” and “I have sins of my own to count.”  In each case, these metaphors also are useful for characterization.  They demonstrate how she is thoughtful, repentant, and self-sacrificing.  The inclusion of metaphors for more than one character shows that the people in general are under stress, and experiencing a period of great difficulty.  They speak in colorful language because dramatic times call for dramatic language.

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