Discuss Miller's treatment of women in The Crucible.  

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

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I think that Miller's depiction of women in the drama is one that shows the multiple dimensions of any and all human being.  I don't see him as having locked women in any one particular role because I see his larger issue as not being a statement made on gender, as much as political authority.  The indictment of how authority can be manipulated to serve individual interests despite the label of "the public good" is something that is of more importance to Miller in the drama.  The women in the play represent both the creative and destructive elements of the human psyche.  Abigail and Elizabeth are on opposite ends of both the drama as well as the spectrum of how individuals act.  Other women in the drama seem to fall onto either side.  I don't think that Miller is making a statement about gender, as much as he is suggesting that it is easier for authority structures to make polarities in communities as it consolidates power in easily identifying "the other" as something to be feared.  The fundamental problem that might be launched at Miller's vision of gender is that it is too reductive of a vision, in that women are either "Elizabeths" or "Abigails."  Yet, it is here where Miller's genius is apparent for if one accepts this criticism, then the corresponding point about corrupt authority needing to demonize" the other" in order to legitimize itself becomes true.  If authority is not afraid of "the other," it is then comfortable with complexity, insecurity, and even doubt.  Yet, Miller's argument is that Salem failed precisely because it was not comfortable with the uncertain results of freedom and human action.  In presenting simple solutions, it created a setting where people were locked into roles that they could not play or fit into.  Miller's depiction of women's roles might, then, be linked to the larger idea that Salem authority failed because it operated in a manner whereby individuals "fit" certain predesigned roles because of a configuration that benefited those in the position of power as opposed to serving the public good.

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