What is the symbolism of the golden candlesticks, Proctor's signature, and poppets in The Crucible, by Arthur Miller?
In the drama, Rev. Parris wanted golden candlesticks for the altar, and according to John Proctor, preached about them often. Proctor resented Parris's rich tastes, considering him to be a greedy and ungodly man. Proctor especially resented Parris's obsession with the candlesticks because Proctor was a farmer who worked long and hard to support his family. Proctor's resentment ran so deep that he had not wanted Parris to baptize his and Elizabeth's youngest child. The golden candlesticks symbolize Parris's selfish materialism, and they perhaps symbolize the deep rift between Parris and Proctor.
John Proctor's signature, and his refusal to give it to the court in a confession, finalizes the central theme in the play: the courage to maintain one's integrity, even in the face of death. Proctor's signature symbolizes his identity and his honor. He believes the most valuable possession he can leave to his children is his own good name. His signature symbolizes John's sense of self, what he holds dear, and what kind of man he is, in truth.
The poppets play an important role in the play in that a poppet becomes Abigail's instrument of vengeance in her attempt to destroy Elizabeth Proctor. In general, the poppets symbolized the Puritans' condemnation of entertainment and idleness. They are also associated in the play with the dark arts, the practice of witchcraft.
Reverend Parris's desire for golden candlesticks for the Puritan meetinghouse call into question his devotion to this particular sect. Puritan theology rejected materialism and advised the pious to lay up treasures in Heaven (a paraphrase of the gospel of Matthew). Parris is accused of having more Catholic tastes, thus not a man fit to lead the congregation in Salem. The candlesticks are symbolic of Parris's greed and vanity.
A poppet used as a voodoo doll, as employed by Abigail Williams to frame Elizabeth Proctor, is symbolic of the superstition and malevolence that took hold of certain people in Salem. A corrupted child's toy used as hard proof to convict a woman of a capital crime symbolizes how deeply ludicrous the court's proceedings were.
John Proctor's signature is symbolic in two ways. To the court, his signed confession lends credibility to the trials. It implies that Proctor recognizes the court's authority and his belief that the witchcraft accusations are credible. To John, his signature symbolizes his name and reputation. Though it costs him his life, by not throwing away his name he demonstrates to his wife, his sons, and the community at large that he is his own man--one who will not be a party to the corruption that plagues the theocracy of Salem.