In the beginning of act 2 of The Crucible, how does Miller use language to convey important insights into the Proctors' marriage?

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Elizabeth's first speech to her husband, John, is a question that seems to have arisen merely from wifely concern but which, as we read the rest of the act (or even consider what we know of the Proctor marriage and John's recent infidelity), seems to betray her continued suspicion of John. She asks him, "What keeps you so late? It's almost dark." And her "Oh" at his response appears to indicate her relief that he was simply planting the areas of the farm far from the house. She later explains that she thought he'd "gone to Salem this afternoon." Further, John's comment that the rabbit stew his wife has made is "well seasoned"—after we just saw him add seasoning to it—seem somewhat disingenuous: he wants to find a reason to compliment her, even if it isn't entirely truthful. He wants to please her, even maybe to appease her. There's also a sense of Elizabeth having forgotten how it is that she is supposed to care for her husband: she forgets to bring his cider with dinner, she has forgotten to bring flowers into the house, and so forth. This indicates, perhaps, that there has been somewhat of an estrangement between them (and also could be, in part, because she has been ill). Their conversation is stilted and seems to avoid something, especially after John goes to kiss Elizabeth and she merely "receives" but does not return it.

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At this stage in the play, hysteria...

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