The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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What is a summary of The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This play follows a man named John Proctor as he deals with the fallout from an extramarital affair he had seven months prior to the play's beginning. He had an affair with a young woman named Abigail Williams who had been working for his family as a sort of domestic helper, at the time. His wife, Elizabeth, found out and fired Abigail. On the night before the play starts, Abigail went into the woods with her uncle's Barbadian slave and drank a charm to kill Elizabeth so that she could have John to herself. However, when her cousin and another girl fall ill, Abigail accuses other women in the village of witchcraft. These accusations escalate, the government of the colony becomes involved, and soon, several people are put to death. Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, but Elizabeth reveals that she is pregnant and this eventually saves her life. However, when John goes to the court to try to save her, it results in his own arrest. Ultimately, John has to make a choice between being executed as a witch or lying to save his own life; he ends up choosing truth and death, restoring his faith in himself and his own goodness and integrity.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Crucible was written in 1953 by Arthur Miller, in part as a critique of McCarthyism, the anti-communist movement of the 1950s Cold War. The Salem witch trials, in which people were presumed guilty until proven innocent and paranoia triumphed over reason, were portrayed by Miller as an allegory for the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities, where people were pressured to condemn their friends as a way to avoid being implicated.

In the play, which is a fictional account of Salem in 1692, a young girl Abigail, accuses several people of witchcraft. In reality, Abigail is trying to get Elizabeth, the wife of John Proctor, condemned so that she can continue having an affair with him. Despite the accusations of witchcraft being based on a self-serving lie, mass hysteria and political scheming take hold of the town, and people are urged to confess to witchcraft and accuse others in order to avoid being condemned to death. While many people cave in and lie, Giles Correy and Proctor steadfastly assert the truth and are executed in an extremely painful manner.

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