Symbols in The Crucible?I know that the whole play is a symbol for the McCarthy "witch hunts", but what are some basic symbols in the book? 

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Forest: In the Puritan community of Salem, the wilderness was considered Satan's dominion and a forbidden place. It is also the location where the young women dance and perform enigmatic rituals at the beginning of the play. The girls are uninhibited and independent while they dance in the forest. The wilderness also contrasts with the structured, austere community of Salem, which is focused on conformity and tradition. In the play, the forest symbolizes fear of the unknown, particularly new views regarding personal independence.

Poppet: Traditionally, a poppet is an innocent children's toy. However, Abigail notices Mary Warren stick her needle inside the poppet and stabs herself later that night, claiming that Elizabeth Proctor used the poppet as some sort of voodoo doll. In this way, the poppet becomes a malevolent object and symbolizes the transformation of good to evil throughout the play.

Proctor's Signature: At the end of the play, Deputy Governor Danforth insists that John sign his confession. However, John is hesitant to write his signature because it will not only ruin his reputation but also be used to support the corrupt court. John Proctor's signature stands for his positive character traits and reputation. John's signature also represents his courage, integrity, and loyalty, which is why he choices to tear the confession after signing it.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, let's start with the title.  A crucible is "a container of metal or refractory material employed for heating substances to high temperatures" or "a severe, searching test or trial" (according to, attached below). How's that for a symbol of what happens in this story?  Salem has become a receptacle for fiery trials and tribulations.  The town is tested, faith is tested, the court is tested, and people are tested.

The gallows is a symbol of justice which has been perverted--in this case justice gone wrong.  The court is a symbol of all authority--both civil and moral, in this town.  The forest, for all Puritans, was a place of evil and the home of Satan, where only things improper were happening.  (By the way, why was Rev. Parris out in the forest the night he saw the girls?!)  The poppet which "traps" Elizabeth is symbolic of the ridiculousness and childishness of the town and these proceedings.

Witch hunting, as you mentioned, is the overriding symbol, one which Miller used deliberately as a mirror of the McCarthy era. Almost everything in The Crucible, such as the stones which press Giles Corey to death, can be seen as a symbol of oppression, as well.