How does Arthur Miller use conflict, setting, verbal irony and foil to achieve author's purpose?

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writergal06 | Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Since one of Miller's primary purposes is to show the danger of mass hysteria and self-preservation, the literal conflict between the accused and the accuser, as well as the figurative conflict between truth and self-preservation are both key. These conflicts would not be as extreme, and therefore as poignant, if they were set in the different time and place. By taking a familiar historical circumstance and an environment known for its oppressive nature, Miller is able to emphasize the extreme but practical ramifications on society when mass hysteria takes over.

Miller also, in drawing connections between McCarthyism and the witch trials, emphasizes the corruption that can come with pride and power. To accomplish this purpose, he uses both verbal irony and foils. Verbal irony appears in many forms, but can be seen most clearly with Danforth. He makes statements such as, "this court will not deal in lies" (Act IV) and that the righteous need no lawyers (Act III), when the audience knows the everything related to the court is corrupt. Foils are also used to create the contrast between the morally upright and honest and the prideful and corrupt. For example, Abigial's repeated deceitfulness is highlighted by Elizabeth's blunt honesty. Reverend Hale's quest for the true cause of the girls' afflictions is highlighted by Reverend Parris' desire to hide the truth to protect himself. Through these elements and others, Miller is able show the effects of this mindset on society


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