Student Question

What's a good introductory paragraph hook for The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Introductions are often the most difficult part of writing an essay, and sometimes it is easier to write the rest of the paper before writing the introduction. In any case, the purpose of an introduction is to capture interest and prepare your readers for what you are going to say in the rest of the essay.

For an essay on The Crucible, you undoubtedly have a specific focus which you will be writing about, and that is a good place to start thinking about your introduction. For example, if you are writing about how pride affects the outcome of these trials, a quote by or reference to Danforth at the end of the play when he refuses to even consider a pardon for Proctor and the others might be useful:

I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement. Them that will not confess will hang.... Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak God’s law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering.

If you are writing about the redemption of a flawed man, Proctor's plea to let him have the one thing he still has, his name, might be effective. Keep in mind that any quote you might use must be directly connected to the essay or it will be a distraction rather than an effective attention-getting tool.

Asking a question about whether or not your readers have ever made a mistake which ended in serious consequences might be effective for an essay which focuses on that aspect of the play. If you are writing about the lies which caused such tragedy, obviously a short discussion of Abigail Williams is appropriate.

Since this play recounts a semi-fictionalized account of a real event in history, perhaps a quick review of the real Salem Witch Trials information or something interesting about Arthur Miller would be interesting and helpful. The same thing is true of this strategy as of the use of quotations; the information must be applicable in some way to the essay.

I have attached an excellent eNotes site on how to write an introduction. Several suggestions from that site include the following:

  • Start with a quote that is related to your topic, and make sure it's a powerful attention getter.
  • Start with a question, perhaps a question you had yourself before you began your initial research.
  • Begin with an interesting fact that is related to your topic.
  • Use an analogy, but make sure it is concise and easy to understand. You don't want to get too lengthy, because your introduction should be about 10% of your entire essay.
  • Try presenting a paradox if it is related to your topic; readers are interested in the unusual and seemingly unanswerable.

As long as you do the two things--capture interest and prepare readers for what you will be writing about--you will create an effective introduction.

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I am writing an essay on how the title The Crucible fits the theme of Arthur Miller's play. Can you help me find a hook?

There are two basic definitions of the word "crucible" which make it an excellent choice for the title of the play.  The first one is :  n. A severe test, as of patience or belief; a trial.  The second definition is also a noun : a vessel made of material that does not melt easily; used for high temperature chemical reactions.

The military (Marine Corps, I think) also has something they call the crucible to test the will and strength of bootcamp members.  It's meant to be both mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing.

Since the play deals with both a trial of patience and belief (and a literal trial with judge and jury)  as well as a situation that is destined to explode with hot tempers and reactions, there is definitely something to use here for your hook.

You could begin your essay with something like this: 

Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, has a most appropriate title. A "crucible" is either a container meant to house chemicals at high temperature or a trial of patience and belief.  The play continually raises heated debates of people who discuss the themes of the moral choice, justice and injustice, truth and lie, trials of the innocently accused person, witchcraft, evil powers vs. good ones. There is much explosion of emotion and just as much trial of patience and belief taking place in this aptly named play.

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I am writing an essay on how the title The Crucible fits the theme of Arthur Miller's play. Can you help me find a hook?

Webster's defines the word "crucible" as:

1 : a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting...a substance that requires a high degree of heat 2 : a severe test 3 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development

You could use any one of these definitions as a "hook" for your essay. For instance, if you chose the first definition, you might compare the trials and punishments as the vessel in which the people accused of witchcraft are tested. Using the second definition to explain the title is obvious, again through the trials and sentencing. The third option might be the most intriguing theme on which to build your essay. What are those concentrated forces that interact to cause change in Salem? And what does that change ultimately turn out to be: the routing out of witches in the town or the exposure and ridicule of superstition and paranoia? Remember that Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in the aftermath of the McCarthy hearings, whose goal was to uncover Communists in America. Isn't it interesting that those trials were called "witch hunts"?

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I am writing a Literary Analysis essay about Arthur Miller and The Crucible, I can't think of any really good hooks, any ideas?

Without knowing what you are going to analyze in The Crucible, I can only give you some general tips for how to start your essay.  As an English teacher, I tell my students to avoid the old standard ways of starting an essay with a definition, quote, or question.  Now, this is my personal opinion.  They are such overused ways to start an essay that they become ineffective clichés.  So, that is the first advice.  Sometimes people start essays with an anecdote or “short story” or an interesting fact that will grab the reader’s attention.  Those facts must “wow” your reader, or they, too, are ineffective.  Think about these ideas as you write your “hook”:

  • Who is your audience?  Make sure your hook is formal, like this essay probably is, and focus on what idea you want to get across to your reader.  Set up your credibility as a writer with the hook.
  • How do you want your audience to feel about what your essay is about?  Think about how your hook will set up the mood and the tone of the essay.
  • Think about writing your hook last.  Have a strong thesis to guide your paper, and after writing the essay, return to the hook and background information needed in your introductory paragraph. 
  • Use descriptive writing and figures of speech to set the scene or get across an idea. 

Ideas for The Crucible hooks?  Again, this depends on the topics you are writing about.

  • Why did Miller title the play, The Crucible?  What is a crucible?
  • Why did he write this play?  What connections are there to the McCarthy hearings and his experiences with the Red Scare?
  • Think psychological—What motivates people?  How is the play symbolic of the human condition?

I hope this helps!!

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