What are ideas for an expository essay over this idea in The Crucible: "Conflict brings out the best as well as the worst in humanity"?

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I think that you could use particular characters to prove this idea of conflict in Miller's work.  I think that many of the townspeople who were timid and weak might be examples of how conflict can bring out the worst in individuals.  For example, take Thomas Putnam's profiteering off of individual misery or how Danforth and Hale are not fully able to gain a hold of the hysteria surrounding the trial.  These individuals are able to be seen in the worst of lights given the conflict that arises and their lack of moral and ethical fortitude in responding to it.  At the same time, I would say that Giles Corey could be an example of someone who displays their best in the crisis.  Committed to speaking and acting in accordance with the truth, he never loses his voice and even until the end when demanding, "More weight," he is seen as a paragon of virtue at a time when the trait was lacking.  Naturally, both Proctors fit this, as well.  Elizabeth is shown to be the penultimate in loving spouses in her commitment and loyalty to her husband throughout the crisis.  John Proctor runs the gambit here.  His affair with Abigail represents how bad conflict can display an individual's tendencies. Yet, when he fully evolves into being an extraordinary man in times that where sadly ordinary people dominated the landscape, the reader fully understands what it means to display one's best in conflict.  Using characters and their behavior in the time of conflict could be one way to approach this task.

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Half of this question would be easy to answer; the other half, of course, is a little trickier to find, since we don't always expect to find a lot of positives in the midst of conflict.  So, I'll concentrate on helping you think of some "bests" which show themselves through the course of this play.

The "worsts," of course, include:  deaths, greed, heresy, lies, accusations, loss of faith, lust, envy, corruption, lying...and the list goes on.

The "bests" are fewer but represent the finest aspects of human nature when faced with conflict:

John and Elizabeth had a broken, awkward marriage due to John's infidelity; however, as each of them tries to save the other from the punishment of death, their love is renewed.

John is a man who has succumbed to his carnal desires and broken his faith with God and man; however, as he is forced to choose between his life and his name (his soul, that which matters), he is able to forgive himself and accept God's forgiveness.

Giles is a cantankerous, litigious man who keeps his friends and neighbors on the edge of a lawsuit; however, he is able to withstand both the figurative and literal pressures of this inquisition and save his land and holdings for his family,

The Reverend Parris was a haughty, arrogant, and self-absorbed man; however, this experience appears to have humbled him, and he now has the potential to become a true man of God.

The loss of these righteous community members (particularly Rebecca, Martha, and John) is a tragic waste; however, it is their deaths which precipitate the end of the court and the trials.

This should get you started on your essay--it would be an interesting one to write, with a clear structure built in to the prompt.  Happy writing!


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In responding to this prompt, consider the characters in the play through whom internal and external conflicts are developed, and examine their behavior in resolving their conflicts. Some of the characters behave with incredible integrity and courage, while others do not.

John Proctor, being the play's protagonist, is a character to analyze, certainly. John experiences both external and internal conflict. He struggles against the court that has imprisoned and executed his innocent friends, and chooses to oppose the court at risk of his own life. When he himself is condemned, he struggles with an intense internal conflict: to lie and live or to maintain his honor and die. John chooses to die, protecting the integrity of his own name.

Abigail Williams' response to conflict, however, reveals the worst in humanity. When John rejects her, she lies to the court to destroy John's wife Elizabeth. When Mary Warren tries to defy her and stop the loss of innocent life, Abigail chooses to preserve her own power and destroys Mary's attempt to tell the truth, insuring that others will die.

Depending upon the length of your assigned essay, you might also consider writing about Elizabeth Proctor and Giles Corey, both of whom ultimately demonstrate the best of humanity in confronting conflict.

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(Perhaps the following could be an introduction).


In The Crucible, the conflict involves young girls crying hysterically, accusing innocent people of being involved in witchcraft. This is a story in which innocent people are being hung due to the young girls' accusations of witchcraft. At the center of the story, the court believes these young girls in their outrageous cries of witchcraft being practiced by the common folk of the town. The Crucible is a play in which the conflict brings out the best and worst in the people of Salem.

(Next, you would need to plan the body of your essay).

Abigail creates the conflict in this play. She is at the center of the problem. She desires to have John Proctor with whom she has had an affair. John Proctor is married to Elizabeth. He has ended the affair and is trying to restore his marriage. Abigail and the other young girls in the play conjure up a spell in hopes of getting John Proctor to choose Abigail over his wife. When Abigail and the girls get caught, they begin crying witchcraft and turn the town upside down with their lies and evil pretenses.

The rising action occurs as innocent people are being condemned to hang due to Abigail and the young girls' accusation. The court believes the girls in their pretenses. They scream and pretend to be in anguish due to certain townspeople practicing witchcraft. The conflict brings out the worst in Abigail as she leads the girls in play acting. Abigail will stop at nothing short of lying to the courts to have her way with John Proctor.



(Perhaps these ideas will help you get started on your essay. You would need to write about how the conflict brings out the best in certain townspeople. John Proctor admits his affair to the courts in hopes of saving innocent people from dying. In this way, the conflict brings out his honesty in hopes of saving innocent people from hanging. You would need to elaborate on this type of conflict and how it brings out the best and the worst in the townspeople. You could also write about the Reverend Parris and how the conflict brings out the worst in him. He is willing for innocent people to die to protect his reputation. John Proctor is willing to die to protect others. Then finish with a strong conclusion to summarize what you have said in the introduction and body of your paper).     

**Also, I have added links that can help you summarize the conflict that erupted in the town of Salem during the witchcraft accusations. 

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