In The Crucible, what message is Arthur Miller trying to get across to the reader?

Perhaps the most important message that Arthur Miller is trying to get across to the reader in The Crucible has to do with the need for good people to challenge corrupt authority and stand against injustice, even if it costs those people their lives or reputations. John Proctor and Reverend Hale fail to do this until it is too late, and many innocent lives are lost, including Proctor's own, as a result of their delay in speaking out.

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Whether or not Arthur Miller had this specific idea in mind when he was writing The Crucible, one of the major messages of the play is certainly that a crisis for the community is a golden opportunity for some individuals within it. These individuals tend to be the most cynical and unscrupulous, the prime example being Abigail Williams.

Abigail begins the play in a relatively powerless position. She has her physical beauty, of which she is well aware, and her sharp wits and strong personality. However, she lives in the Reverend Parris's house with the dubious status of a poor relation. As the play opens, she is in disgrace with her uncle, and has recently been dismissed from a position at the Proctors' house which was essentially that of a servant. Abigail uses the panic over witchcraft to become, briefly, the most powerful person in Salem, bringing death to her enemies. Of course, her reign of terror cannot last, since the opportunities created by crises are themselves unstable. Her meteoric rise precedes an equally spectacular fall—but not before she has done great damage to the community. Crisis and opportunity feed off one another for a while, as the crisis creates the opportunity, and the opportunity exacerbates the crisis, until the unstable arrangement brings even the opportunists with it as it comes crashing down.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 22, 2020
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One of the most important messages of the play is that we must challenge corrupt authority and speak out against injustice, no matter what it costs us personally.

Abigail Williams herself tells John Proctor in act 1 that the girls were "only sportin'" when they danced in the woods. She says, quite clearly, that Betty's "not witched" and that the young girl is only afraid of her father's response. However, it takes weeks before John Proctor is willing to speak out against Abigail, and he only does so after his wife has been arrested for witchcraft. By then, it is simply too late. His motives appear to be colored by his desire only to free his wife, and the court has already acted on the girls' accusations with many others. Proctor had evidently not wanted to sacrifice his reputation by explaining his history with Abigail, and it eventually cost him almost everything.

Reverend Hale is another example of what happens when we don't speak up soon enough and when we don't try hard enough to topple corrupt authority or stand against injustice. Though Hale has no doubt of Rebecca Nurse's innocence, he tries to trust the court to exonerate her rather than speaking against the girls who accused her, and it ends up costing Rebecca her life and Hale his clear conscience. Later, when he does identify the court as corrupt, he simply quits it and leaves rather than staying and trying to work toward justice for the accused. Then, in act 4, he returns because he feels that there is "blood on [his] head" and that he is partially to blame for the innocent lives lost.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 30, 2020
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If there's one message that Miller wants the audience to take from watching The Crucible, it's that they should never take social stability for granted. Miller presents society as a fragile, delicate thing, something that can be destroyed by repression, ignorance, and mass hysteria. If people want to live in a stable society, they need to think very carefully about what kind of values sustain it.

This means that sometimes we will need to challenge the actions of those in power who seem to be taking society in the wrong direction. That's what Miller and many other artists and thinkers did during the McCarthyite witch hunts, a time when mindless conformism was a hallmark of American life.

If such challenges are not made, then there's every danger that society will develop the kind of rigid authoritarianism displayed in Salem during the witch craze. To be sure, Miller is not suggesting that McCarthyism will lead directly to some kind of Calvinist theocracy. What he's concerned with here is the substance of such a form of government, rather than its outward form. And it is in the substance of McCarthy's actions—in particular his assault on American freedom—that he sees disturbing parallels with the attitude of the judges during the Salem witch trials.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 8, 2019
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One of the primary messages of the play is how government can move away from the interests of the many and become a force to serve the agendas of the few.  The government depicted in Salem is without any type of check or institutional limitation.  People who are accused by it are without any sort of significant recourse nor can they engage in any authentic defense of self because the government has become a tool of the powerful few, exerting its magnitude on the many.  In this setting, the body politic is more afraid of accusation than anything else, preventing any sense of community and collectivity being formed.  Miller's warning seems to be that individuals must be willing to take a stand when their government is operated in a manner that is contrary to public interests.  There has to be some level of check or boundary that individuals are able to place on it when it goes awry in such a manner.  Little hope can be present if individuals are afraid of accusation and willing to accept such a condition through silent complicity.

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I think that the author's main message in this play is that people should be aware of how much we can get swept up in hysteria and what bad things can occur when we do.  He is saying that we tend to lose our heads when we are afraid of something.

In the play, the people of Salem lose their heads because they are afraid for various reasons (that Miller explains in the notes).  Because they are afraid, they fall for the silly stories made up by Abby and her friends.

Miller is warning us that we tend to persecute people when we are afraid.  Hysteria hits us and we forget our better natures and turn on a convenient scapegoat.

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