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What is the significance of John’s re-seasoning the soup in "The Crucible"?

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youngera18 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 17, 2008 at 3:47 AM via web

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What is the significance of John’s re-seasoning the soup in "The Crucible"?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 17, 2008 at 7:36 AM (Answer #1)

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John Proctor enters the empty kitchen as Act II, Scene 1 opens.  He lifts the ladle from a pot of stew which is brewing, tastes it, finds it not quite to his liking, and adds a pinch of salt.  A few minutes later, his wife serves him from the pot.  Proctor tastes the stew and compliments her, saying, "It's well seasoned", and she responds with obvious pleasure, "I took great care".  The significance of Proctor's surreptitious re-seasoning of the soup and subsequent praise to his wife illustrates his careful efforts to please her in every way.  As the scene progresses, there is evidence of definite tension between them, brought about by Proctor's admission of infidelity with Abigail Williams seven months before.  Proctor is completely repentant, however, and his efforts to make up for his transgressions against her are proof of his sincerity.

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vhaley | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 17, 2008 at 7:42 AM (Answer #2)

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Since Arthur Miller selects details of his stage directions and narrative descriptions with great care, your question is a good one.  Even something as seemingly insignificant as John Proctor's dropping a pinch of salt into the rabbit stew at the beginning of Act Two has reverberations in Miller's larger themes of pride and betrayal.  In the tense dialogue between Elizabeth and John as they sit down to dinner, she tells him that it "hurt" her "heart to strip [the rabbit]" that had mysteriously just walked into the house that afternoon.  The vulnerability and self-sacrifice of the rabbit prefigures Elizabeth's willingness to go against her own nature and lie in court (Act Three) when Danforth questions her regarding John's "lechery."   And although John secretly adds salt to Elizabeth's stew, implying its blandness, he compliments her at the table, saying, "It's well seasoned."  A small deception, John 's effort to spare Elizabeth's feelings,  is evident again when John omits the fact that he was alone with Abigail when she told him witchcraft had nothing to do with getting caught dancing at night in the woods.  When Elizabeth suggests that Abigail is plotting against her, John is still not willing to risk his name and reputation by stepping forward.  The trap has been set, and not even John's eventual confession in court, it seems, is enough to save her. 

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