Discuss how Miller is able to convey the weaknesses of Proctor and Elizabeth's relationship in Act Two.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The opening stage direction of Proctor adding spice to the broth might be one example of how Miller is able to convey the frailty of the relationship between husband and wife in Act II.  The mere act of him needing to add spice to her cooking is reflective of how the challenges in the kitchen are seen elsewhere in their lives.  The discussion of weather, crops, and other elements seem to merely be superficial tidings trying to conceal the hollowness that both feel is there.  Miller creates a mood in the discussion between husband and wife as being one where there is a gaping hole between them, caused by John's infidelity and Elizabeth's emotional frigidity, to a great extent.  The lingering feeling of his guilt and anger and her regret and sadness are still there.  Miller might be saying that the only way couples can work out such difficulties is through open and frank dialogue, something that the culture of Salem is not one to embrace, as seen in the opening stage directions in Act I, and something that both husband and wife in this scene cannot fully accept.  The fact that he demands to no longer be judged and she responds with the "magistrate" resides in his heart is reflective of how there is an overall weakness in their relationship in the scene.  Interestingly enough, there seems to be some level of reclamation of their relationship as the Act develops. Elizabeth's arrest is one of the first moments Proctor is seen to be animated to be a better husband.

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