Miller uses irony and pathos to elicit underlying themes and conflicts within The Crucible. Identify them and explain what effects they achieve.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Irony and pathos are developed throughout the play; both contribute a great deal to the power of Miller's drama. There is much to pity in the play.The suffering of the innocent evokes our compassion, again and again, as we identify with their pain. Giles deserves our compassion as tries to save his wife, bears terrible guilt for her imprisonment, and dies in agony while being tortured to death. Elizabeth Nurse, elderly and frail, weakened but resolute, evokes compassion as she faces her death. John's deplorable physical condition in the jail at the conclusion of the play also evokes great pity; moreover, John and Elizabeth's final moments are heart wrenching as they say goodbye. There is much in The Crucible that goes to the heart.

Irony abounds in the drama, also, rooted in the characters and the fearful situations in which they find themselves. The one commandment John cannot remember concerns adultery. Giles' innocent comments condemn the wife he loves dearly. Parris, who is supposed to represent Christian principles, exhibits none. The court, which is supposed to find the truth, acts to protect liars. The central irony in the play concerns John's moral and spiritual growth. Even he is amazed that he can choose death over dishonor, dying for his principles.

The irony and pathos in The Crucible emphasize several themes, but the central message is this: Without moral courage, we cannot live with integrity, and without integrity, our lives are without value.

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The Crucible

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