What are some themes in Arthur Miller's The Crucible? Which characters are associated with these themes? 

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, there are several themes that can be related to specific characters or to a group of characters.

John Proctor represents honor and integrity. While he has made mistakes (specifically, having an affair with Abigail when she worked in the Proctors' home), John is not willing to put a lie to paper with his signature in order to save himself.

Proctor is willing to confess to witchcraft, but he will not sign his name to a piece of paper. He believes that by confessing aloud, God knows his heart. He confesses in order to save his life, but he will not sign a written confession because it is a question of honor. They ask him why:

PROCTOR, with a cry of his whole soul:

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!

Danforth tells Proctor that if he does not give them his signed confession, Proctor will hang. Suddenly Proctor seizes the confession and tears it to pieces. Hale yells at Proctor that he cannot do so or he will be hanged. 

PROCTOR, his eyes full of tears:

I can. And there's your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor.

Elizabeth tells him not to cry:

Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!

Another theme is truth vs. deceit. 

This is something that involves Proctor only insofar that he covers up his relationship with Abigail. However, the characters most demonstrative of deceit are Abigail and the other girls who begin the accusations against people in the town. Others community members follow suit for personal gain, but Abigail starts the madness by going into the wood with other girls and asking Tituba help her cast a spell to kill Elizabeth Proctor because Abigail wants John.


I talked to your papa and I told him everything. So there's nothing to—


You drank blood, Abby! You didn't tell him that! [...] You did, you did! You drank a charm to Kill John Proctor's wife. You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!

The lies continue as the girls make false witness against others. Elizabeth Proctor is named, but is spared because she is pregnant. When Mary Warren tries to expose the lies, the girls turn on her and say that Mary is afflicting them.


A wind, a cold wind, has come. Her eyes fall on Mary Warren. [...]


Mary do you send this shadow on me?


I freeze, I freeze!

Mary, too weak to resist their attack, joins with them once more.

As an example, Mary Warren—one of Abigail's followers—tells the Proctors:

...in open court [Goody Osburn] near choked us all to death.


She tried to kill me many time, Goody Proctor.

Goody Osburn is one of many unfairly accused for things they never did.

Honor and deceit are only two of the prevalent themes in this play. Honor is found primarily with John Proctor's character. Deceit is found primarily with Abigail and the other young women, but does not rest exclusively with them.