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In The Crucible, how does Miller present attitudes towards the events taking place in...

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becka_walch | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 10, 2013 at 11:16 AM via web

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In The Crucible, how does Miller present attitudes towards the events taking place in Salem?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM (Answer #1)

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Miller presents attitudes of the characters through the lens of a objective historian. He chooses to provide an explanatory framework where he gives  backgrounds to the major players, outlining why they behave as they do, their beliefs and motives. He does not simply let the characters reveal themselves through their own dialogue and actions. This is fairly unusual in a play, but Miller seeks to fully understand the players in a striking historical drama far removed in time, and wants to explain these characters and events to modern audiences also. He goes so far as to pass judgment on them all,albeit in a sympathetic way:

When one rises above the individual villainy displayed, one can only pity them all, 
just as we shall be pitied someday. (Act I)

From his priviledged standpoint many centuries later, Miller can and does indeed rise above the characters to present a version of events which, while faithful to facts and details, bears a conscious stamp of his own.

 Miller seeks to understand the characters, even the unpleasant ones, like Putnam, and Judge Hathorne whom he describes as 'remorseless' and 'bitter'(in contrast to the more sympathetic, if equally misguided, Danforth). However, it is impossible to be wholly objective and Miller lets his own beliefs and atittudes colour the play. He does not believe at all in witchcraft himself - certainly not in the traditional sense of casting supernatural spells on others, although he fully realises the terrible effects that evil emotions, like fear and envy and greed, can have. Such emotions he sees as sufficient for explaining the whole Salem upheaval: Abigail accuses others of witchcraft to deflect attention from her own misdemeanours, and also her jealousy of Elizabeth Proctor; Putnam gets his daughter to accuse those whose land he covets, and so on. The idea that the supernatural actually plays a part is discredited by Miller and he therefore presents the credulous attitudes of many of the characters as being, at best, naive. More enlightened individuals like Proctor, whom Miller chooses to be the hero of the play, do not stand much chance in an atmosphere so riddled with superstition.

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