The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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What is truth in The Crucible?

In The Crucible, although truth is often distorted, what is clearly true is that Abigail lies and is extremely manipulative. She knowingly hides the truth to take revenge on Elizabeth Proctor because she is jealous of her. The truth is that John had an affair with Abigail, and the hurt feelings and jealousy in the aftermath of their affair leads to horrible consequences.

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In The Crucible, it is not always clear what truth is because it is often distorted in both the play and in real life. The story is set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and modern day readers understand that truth was distorted in the real world at that time and in that setting. When people in the play are accused of practicing dark magic and being witches, modern day audiences know that this characterization cannot be true. However, did the superstitious people of 1692 Salem have a completely different point of view? Was it their truth that people could really be witches and is that what led to what happened in Salem?

The answer is complex. To the people of 1692, even though we see the absurdity of this view, it was a very real possibility—or a truth—that someone could be a witch. However, Miller also shows that people even in 1692 Salem distorted the truth to attain their own objectives. He makes it clear that the events that led to the accusations were the result of petty jealousies, hypocrisy, lies and what he describes as “parochial snobbery.”

The preamble to the play notes that the Salem witch-hunt was not “a mere repression.” It provided an opportunity for people to express “long-held hatreds of neighbors” openly and take vengeance against them.

So in the play, what is true is that Abigail lies and is extremely manipulative. She knowingly hides the truth to take revenge on Elizabeth Proctor because she is jealous of her. Initially, John Proctor lies also. The truth is that John had an affair with Abigail and the hurt feelings and jealousy in the aftermath of their affair leads to horrible consequences.

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