The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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What is the main theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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hi1954 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It seems to me that the main theme of this play is the effect of irrational fear upon society.  Miller did, of course, base his treatment of the Salem trials on the effects of McCarthyism.  McCarthy played on people's fear of communism, and the fear that there were invivible communist infiltrators working their way into positions of authority in American society.  He worked on that fear in a manner calculated to arouse irrational, emotional responses in the public instead of reasoned reactions.

In the Crucible, people are subjected to fears of their neighbors and fears of unseen influences working among them, just like the fears McCarthyism fostered in Americans.

Miller used the standard history textbook versions of the Salem trials as his basic setting, and then used the normal sort of literary devices to expound upon this theme.  Of course, it is a work of fiction based loosely upon an historic incident.  The actual Salem trials were far different from the situation in the play. ...

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Wiggin42 | Student

The play is about not conforming to society's notions of right and wrong and being an individual capable of making one's own decisions about morality. In essence; what Proctor does through the play symbolizes the whole meaning. 

In the final scene in jail, Proctor achieves heroic stature when he decides that his life is worth less than his duty to the truth. His claim to personal happiness is less important than the truth that the whole community—and history—needs, and he overcomes his previous, somewhat contrived flaw (adulterous lust). Because of Proctor’s act, Arthur Miller implies in an epilogue to the printed play entitled “Echoes down the Corridor,” “the power of theocracy in Massachusetts was broken.”

A good example is in act 1: 

Parris—now he’s out with it: There is a party in this church. I am not blind; there is a faction and a party.

Proctor: Against you?

Putnam: Against him and all authority!

Proctor: Why, then I must find it and join it.