How does The Crucible explore cruelty?
The Crucible is seen as representing so many things by so many people. However, I tend to think that one of the most profound aspects of Miller's work is how it handles the issue of cruelty.
There is political cruelty in the accusations, the mass hysteria, the turning of neighbor upon neighbor, and the twisted way in which spirituality is used to repress and silence voice. What makes the drama profound is how this dynamic weaves its way into the private explorations of cruelty. The personal realm is where some of the most brutal displays of cruelty can be seen between husband and wife, minister and penitent, and between friends.
The moments in which Miller is able to capture the privatized sense of cruelty which manifests from a cruel political condition makes for some of the best dramatic literature. Miller was ahead of his time in illuminating how the true terror of the modern setting is how political and private cruelty converge to make individuals feel nothing but agonizing pain. It is here that The Crucible operates as literary text, historical document, and philosophical treatise.