What is the central conflict of Arthur Miller's The Crucible?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Written in the early 1950's, Arthur Miller's The Crucible deals, on the surface, with the sort of hysteria generated by the Salem witch trials of 1692. In reality, though, Miller was using his imagined view of the Salem witch trials to comment upon another sort of "witch hunt" that was occurring during his own time, namely the hunt to seek out Communist sympathizers and spies in the United States.

Given this setting for Miller's play, we might expect that the central conflict would be the quest for the truth. Throughout the play, we see some characters trying to discover the truth, while other characters hide the truth, distort the truth, or refuse to divulge the truth because of some ideal they hold dear.

One factor complicating the revelation of the truth is the concept of personal reputation. This comes out especially at the end of the play as John Proctor refuses to recant his confession and thereby secure his release because he wants to preserve his good name:

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life. Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!