In The Crucible, how is the relationship between men and women portrayed?

In The Crucible, there is evidence that suggests that women hold greater power and influence over men. But there is also evidence that supports women being much stronger, more moral and ethical.

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There is evidence in this play that suggests that women hold greater power and influence over men.  But there is also evidence that supports women being much stronger, more moral and ethical. For example Abigail Williams is at the heart of the whole witchcraft hysteria.  It is on her say so that the judges drag innocent people into court and then when she accuses them, they are simply put in prison to await execution if they do not confess to being a witch. 

Another example of women being superior to men in this play would be Rebecca Nurse, who is accused by Mrs. Putnam for putting some kind of spell on her seven infants, thereby causing their deaths, but she is sentenced by a man, the judge, who cannot or won't see that Mrs. Nurse is a model Puritan woman with a reputation for her wisdom, kindness and faith that transcends Salem.

Martha Corey, who happens to be smarter than her husband, Giles, ends up getting dragged off to jail for witchcraft because her husband is too stupid to understand that her book reading is not the reason that he cannot say his prayers.  Martha is superior to Giles.

Women, on the whole are smarter and for the most part more virtuous, except for Abigail, in this play.  Elizabeth Proctor, the long suffering wife of John Proctor, the adulterer who cheated on his wife with Abigail while she worked as a servant in their home, is wrongly accused of witchcraft because of Abigail's continued desire to possess Proctor.

As for the men, in addition to Proctor's adultery, Reverend Parris, a man of God, is more interested in material possessions and his own glory and reputation than actually doing the work of the Lord.  He is a phony, as is Thomas Putnam, whose chief goal in the play is to purchase as much property as he can from the accused.  He even goes so far as to have his daughter Ruth accuse George Jacobs, an old man, of witchcraft just so he can buy the land next to his.

The judges are full of self-righteous, self-appointed power with little or no regard for the truth.  They are more representative of evil and the working of the devil in Salem than any of the people who are executed.  They are cowards, who in the face of the truth, fold, and continue to murder innocent people because they are too afraid to admit that they were wrong in listening to Abigail Williams testimony, which, once she runs away, is learned to be false.

Women emerge as stronger and more moral than the men in this play.

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In The Crucible, what changes can you see in the relationships between men and women throughout the play?

To answer this, it is a good idea to look at John's relationships with two different women; one is Elizabeth and the other is Abigail Williams.  At the beginning of the play, Elizabeth and John are civil at best; the maintain a strained and very awkward relationship.  In act two, Miller takes some time to describe Elizabeth...

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trying to please John with the dinner, and John trying to please Elizabeth by asking about the cow and telling her that the food is good.  But soon, when Elizabeth starts pressuing him to go into town to tell them what Abby had told him, things go bad.  Elizabeth's resentment of the affair and lingering bitterness comes out, and John's resentment of her grudge and defensiveness about his mistakes comes out.  They end up fighting.

But later, in act four, as they meet before John's death, things have changed.  John has expended great effort to rescue Liz from being in jail, and they have both spent some sobering time in prison.  So when they meet again, the defenses and pride has dropped; they speak honestly.  John asks for forgiveness, she asks for forgiveness for being cold, he asks her advice, she cries.  It is emotionally intimate enough to prompt John to declare, "I want my life."  So, the Proctors went from arguing, resentful and mistrusting to honest, loving and vulnerable in each other's presence.

With Abby, John and her were on friendly terms at the beginning; in fact, Abby was very forward and desiring their intimacy to continue; John was stalwart but kind.  He showed her a bit of joking familiarity and even admitted to having hovered outside of her window on occasion.  But by the time act three rolls around, John is so angry with Abby (she is responsible for his wife being imprisoned, after all) that he rages to the entire court, not caring who hears, calling her a "whore".  He rejects her every attempt to win him over, threatens her, and reveals her for who she really is.  So, their relationship went from an intimate affair to pure and bitter hatred.

I hope that helps a bit; good luck!

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In The Crucible how does Miller portray male/female relationships, in particular between Betty and Parris?

If you look at the key male/female relationships in the play, you might start to wonder if Miller really meant to portray such negative, heated interactions between the two.

Let's look at Betty and her father, Reverend Parris.  Betty is so terrified of getting in trouble by her father that she becomes, almost literally, paralyzed by fear.  He discovered her dancing in the woods, and knew that most definitely she would be whipped, and maybe more if the "other stuff" was discovered.  Fear of her father makes her go inert, pretending illness instead of having to face him.  This relays male/female relationships as fraught with a dominant male and a cowering female.

Then, let's look at John and Abby.  These two obviously, at one point, had a very passionate relationship--one based mostly on lust, probably, but it soon turns sour when John ends it.  John feels bitterness towards her in the end, and she pines after him--her desire for him drives her to drastic actions.  So, we see a love/hate relationship develop between the two; Miller seems to portray this one as a firey, but overall destructive and negative relationship.

Next is John and Elizabeth.  Miller portrays their relationship as fraught with distrust, negativity, criticism, careful words, and explosive arguments.  Elizabeth is a cold, critical woman and John is resentful and prideful; his affair still interferes in their happiness.  However, in this relationship, there is hope.  In the closing act of the play, Miller shows them in a tender moment of reconcilation and love; he seems to be saying that marriage can be hard, but it is worth it to fight through challenges.

The other relationship that we can infer from is that of Mr. Putnam and Ruth; later, Ruth is prompted, through her father, to accuse an innocent man of witchcraft, so that he can get the man's land.  This shows an overpowering father figure again, with a girl willing to please and do what he says, no matter the repercussions.

I hope that those analyses help a bit; good luck!

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