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The Crucible is a study in motivation because each of the characters has motivations for their actions that are not directly related to the question of witchcraft which seems to be the central concern of Salem. Parris is motivated not only by his worry for his sick daughter, but also by his resentment of those he feels are against him in the congregation. Those who are accused of witchcraft are also those in the faction of the parish that he feels resent and dislike him. John Proctor is motivated by a desire for truth and justice, but is conflicted another motivation of covering up his guilt for his affair with Abigail. Proctor, is also motivated by a dislike for Parris. Abigail is motivated by her desire for John Proctor and her hatred of Elizabeth Proctor. She is also motivated by her fear of discovery of her transgressions such as dancing naked in the woods. In one of the more interesting moments in the play, Elizabeth Proctor lies to the judge about John's infidelity to protect him, yet she actually increases his difficulties. Miller weaves a web on opposing and conflicting motivations to show how the madness of these accusations take on a life of its own, just as the conflicting motivations in the political arena of Miller's own time took on a life of its own in the Communist hunt of Senator McCarthy and his followers. If the Salem trials had unjust motivations, what does that say about the McCarthy witch hunt?
Think about the ways that the characters get what they want. They either pretend to be something they are not or they lie about someone else. Each person in the story is motivated for their own personal gain. If you say you are a witch, you live even if you are not telling the truth. If you tell the truth, you will die. Imagine the motivation that these people had--lie to keep themselves alive or tell the truth and die. The experiences of these characters is strong and very complex.
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