How does Arthur Miller use the setting to create mood in Act I of The Crucible?
While setting establishes the time and place of a literary work, it often serves to generate a certain mood. In Act I of The Crucible, the setting establishes an atmosphere that is rustic, stark, limited, harsh, raw, leaden, and dark.
With this setting of Act I, playwright Arthur Miller creates his objective correlative, a situation composed of a set of objects that establishes a mood, a mood which reflects the tenor of Puritanism. In this harsh setting, then, the curtain rises to reveal the Reverend Parris kneeling beside the bed of his daughter Betty. Outside this stark room lies the edge of wilderness, an area that is "full of mystery" for the Puritans of Salem, who "believed that the virgin forest was the Devil's last preserve."
In such an environment, then, there is an underlying fear and inflexibility that is generated. In the Overture to Act I, author Arthur Miller writes,
It is not hard to see how easily many could have been led to believe that the time of confusion had been brought upon them by deep and darkling forces.
Moreover, with such a stark, harsh room and a threatening environment outside, it is not difficult for the reader and the audience to give credibility to the occurrences in the action of the plot as they, too, are rigid and foreboding.
Arthur describes the room as spare and raw. There seems to be a chest, a chair, and a small table in addition to the bed that Betty Parris occupies. Wood colors fill the room.
This setting creates an empty or barren feeling in the reader. This mood mirrors what the reader begins to experience in the relationships between the Puritans, but particularly between the members of the Parris household.
The setting also includes a narrow window and a candle burning near the bed. These small instances of light give off the ambiance of intimacy in many situations, but in this situation, combined with the barren and empty feeling, they portray the feeling that there is little hope, or little purity in this situation.
The rafters are "exposed" according to the stage directions. This further develops the simplicity with which the Puritans lived. It feels like anything that is not essential is not there.
Mood is the feeling created in a reader. The setting that opens to the reader feels cold, dark, empty, and simple.