Discuss your responses to the issues raised in The Overture in Act I of Miller's  The Crucible."Discuss your responses to the issues raised in The Overture in Act I of Miller's  The Crucible."

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

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I think that if one is looking at the historical background that Miller gives, it becomes apparent that this lengthy analysis represents concepts that will be revisited in the play.  Consider the description of Salem itself, where there is a "predilection" for individuals to mind the business of others.  This is something that becomes large in the drama as the insinuations from overzealous neighbors helps to explain why the accusations become so intense and so abundant. Additionally, Miller correctly points out the fundamental fear that existed in Salem.  This fear lives on two levels.  The first was the revocation of the land charter.  This made the need to possess land and the paranoia of one's neighbors' holdings even more significant, feeding the frenzy and fueling the accusations.  Corey points this out when he attempts to impugn Putnam's credibility.  At the same time, Miller points out the fundamental spiritual fear in Salem.  A community that places so much emphasis on organized religion is bound to face a contradiction that Miller identifies.  On one hand, there is a desire to want spirituality and enhance its presence.  Yet, on the other hand, the need for religious authority and hierarchical structures of power want to limit this zeal, ensuring that it is fed for the purposes of enhancing the religious establishment.  In bringing out this contradiction, Miller explains why the witch trials were almost inevitable in a place like Salem.  Finally, I think that Miller's articulation of how Salemites viewed the rearing of children is extremely important.  In arguing that adults in Salem expected their children to be a certain way helps to understand why the girls took special joy in doing what they did that night in the woods and afterwards:

He [Parris] like the rest of Salem, never conceived that the children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the side, and mouths shut until bidden to speak.

In this description, Miller establishes how the girls could have gone so far in their actions.

Finally, the "exceptionalism" of Salem is something that Miller brings forth and helps to link the tragedy, the McCarthy witch hunts, and the idea of repression all together.  "The candle that would light the world" is something that ends up burning the village.  In this tradition of believing in the singular and repressive notion of the good no matter the costs, Miller argues that the Salem tragedy was bound to happen.  Additionally asserting that we, in the modern setting, have inherited this tradition helps to make what is being read possess modern implications.  It is here where "The Overture" becomes extremely important.

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