What is the main message of The Crucible?

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The main message of The Crucible is that mass hysteria destroys lives. We might like to think of ourselves as living in a more enlightened time than the inhabitants of seventeenth-century Salem. And yet, at the time when The Crucible was written, McCarthyism and the "Red Scare" were in full swing, destroying the careers, lives, and reputations of many innocent people.

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A crucible can be defined as a test and a metal or ceramic container in which chemicals are combined at high temperatures. In "The Crucible," Salem's morality and logic are tested. Although there are some ethical and logical characters (i.e. Elizabeth Proctor and Giles Corey), Salem largely fails this test, allowing themselves to be herded by the religious fanatics and power-hungry citizens and officials to the point of widespread hysteria, and this hysteria is analogous to the high temperatures and potentially violent interactions of chemicals in a crucible. 

One of the main messages of "The Crucible" is that mob mentality in any situation, religious or political, leads to thoughtless (and therefore unethical and illogical) actions. In this play, those actions lead to the persecution of innocent people. Although Hale comes in to asses the situation, when he begins to see that these accusations have no merit, he is vetoed by Danforth who would rather see innocent people executed than see the court's authority questioned. 

Another message is that any society governed by oppressive laws and religious doctrines tends to lead to fanatical ideology. And under such repressive governance, some citizens will rebel; and in some cases, a rebellion is justified. 

There are quite a few messages in the play and they all intertwine. One of the more basic statements the play makes is that religious doctrine is only ethical if it can be applied in a moral and logical way. These accusations of witchcraft, from a legal or religious standpoint, are neither ethical or logical. Legal and religious doctrines must pass the "test" of being applied in real life while retaining moral and logical justifications. Such doctrines should not be manipulated to persecute innocent people. And in "The Crucible" the accusations were upheld so the religious leaders and court officials would not lose any respect or authority. That is, the court (Danforth) upheld the accusations of witchcraft despite evidence to the contrary; he did this so the court officials and religious leaders would not have to admit their mistake. 

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What is the main message of The Crucible?

The Crucible is a savage indictment of humanity's penchant for mass hysteria, especially at times of great social tension. To that end, Arthur Miller wants readers to realize that the famous Salem witch hunt of the seventeenth century depicted in the play is by no means an unusual occurrence. There is clearly something in human nature that makes people turn to scapegoats when society is experiencing difficult periods.

As is well-known, The Crucible is an allegory for McCarthyism and the "Red Scare" of the early 1950s, when many Americans' lives and careers were ruined by false accusations of communism or communist sympathies. The term "McCarthyism" comes from Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose false claims about communists infiltrating the government fanned the flames of the communist scare and caused widespread suspicion. Like the Salem witch hunts, McCarthyism is an example of the deeply damaging effects of mass hysteria on society, showing how mass hysteria can destroy innocent lives, leaving chaos, disorder, and injustice in its wake. In writing The Crucible, Miller hoped to draw attention to this fact, using one famous mass hysteria from history to challenge the mass hysteria that was gripping the United States in the early 1950s.

Miller's aim in writing The Crucible wasn't simply to point out that McCarthyism was a modern-day witch hunt, however; through the play, he explores the difficulty of combating mass hysteria, especially when it is enabled by those in power. In both seventeenth-century Salem and mid-twentieth century America, those in positions of responsibility chose to look the other way or even participate in the mass hysteria themselves rather than challenge it. That's not to say that Miller believes it's easy to stand up against such evil—one only has to look at the fate of John Proctor to see this. Ultimately, by showing the destructive and corrupting effects of mass hysteria, The Crucible delivers a message about the importance of staying faithful to the truth and refusing to bow to the pressure of mass hysteria—even at great personal cost.

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What are the themes of The Crucible?

Three themes from The Crucible are suspicion and accusation are contagious, the fervor of religion has potential for hypocrisy, and the importance of a name.

Suspicion and accusation are contagious

The first theme in The Crucible is that people tend to get excited and a mob mentality is created where people are stirred up to the point of chaos.  For example, various people in the village are forced to confess even when they did nothing.

Tituba: I don’t compact with no Devil!

Parris: You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba! (Act 1)

Tituba is singled out because she is a slave, so they don’t trust her.  They don’t understand her culture and assume she is in league with the devil.

The fervor of religion has potential for hypocrisy.

The second theme is the hypocrisy of religion.  The people who most strongly believe they are doing God’s work and that the accused witches are in league with the Devil are actually the ones who are acting in a way contrary to God.  They are using God as an excuse to kill people.

Hale: Nonsense! Mister, I have myself examined Tituba, Sarah Good, and numerous others that have confessed to dealing with the Devil. They have confessed it. (Act 2)

The fact that it becomes okay to accuse and kill innocent people is an example of how religion is used hypocritically.

The importance of a name.

Names are a running motif in the play.  Naming names of accused witches and saying one’s own name are repeatedly important.  Parris insists that is “blackening my name” (Act 3).

Proctor: Oh, Francis, I wish you had some evil in you that you might know me!

Danforth: A man will not cast away his good name. You surely know that. (Act 3)

Proctor eventually decides that his name is one of the few things he has, and the integrity of his name is paramount.  He refuses to lie and confess, and sully his name.

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What is the main theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

It seems to me that the main theme of this play is the effect of irrational fear upon society.  Miller did, of course, base his treatment of the Salem trials on the effects of McCarthyism.  McCarthy played on people's fear of communism, and the fear that there were invivible communist infiltrators working their way into positions of authority in American society.  He worked on that fear in a manner calculated to arouse irrational, emotional responses in the public instead of reasoned reactions.

In the Crucible, people are subjected to fears of their neighbors and fears of unseen influences working among them, just like the fears McCarthyism fostered in Americans.

Miller used the standard history textbook versions of the Salem trials as his basic setting, and then used the normal sort of literary devices to expound upon this theme.  Of course, it is a work of fiction based loosely upon an historic incident.  The actual Salem trials were far different from the situation in the play.  There was certainly an irrational reaction based upon fear displayed by the public and the magistrates in Salem, Andover and other locations in Massachusetts at the time, but an examination of documents contemporary with the trials (not Robert Calef's later and largely untrue criticisms or Upham's atrocious 'history' of the trials) reveals a society in panic, but not motivated by malice.  McCarthyism was a malicious and ambition-driven political incident.

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What is the main theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

While there are certainly many themes to this story, the main theme is best identified by Miller himself.  Since the first production of the play, audiences have responded to the connection between the witch trials of Salem, the center conflict of the play, and the McCarthy trials of the 1950's.  Miller calls attention to that connection himself in this article from 2000.

Arthur Miller, "Are You Now Or Were You Ever?"
Saturday June 17, 2000

"It would probably never have occurred to me to write a play about the Salem witch trials of 1692 had I not seen some astonishing correspondences with that calamity in the America of the late 40s and early 50s. My basic need was to respond to a phenomenon which, with only small exaggeration, one could say paralysed a whole generation and in a short time dried up the habits of trust and toleration in public discourse."

The textual evidence of Miller's message exists in the parallel of the trials themselves, but also in the long sections of introductory information Miller added to the publication of The Crucible script.  While these sections would not be part of a stage performance, the inclusion in the printed form shows Miller's need to emphasize his own theme.  These sections spend time introducing the town and focusing on the community.  He describes the townspeople as petty, suspicious, and hypocritical.  He makes a point to say that they have a “predilection for minding other people’s business.”   All of this information is provided before the main conflicts are fully developed.  Miller is pointing the readers of his play to the proof that it is the downfall of the community - not specifically John Proctor - that is the important thematic event of this story.

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What is the main theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

There is a definite difference between a theme and a moral. A theme is more of a one-word description of a thread that is discussed throughout the entire play. For example, "mass hysteria", or "integrity". But a moral is usually a one-sentence lesson that the story tries to bring forth. So if you are looking for a theme, what are the major issues that are discussed in the book? I listed two above-mass hysteria, and integrity. The entire book is about how a group of girls create mass hysteria in a small town, and the effects that hysteria has on hundreds of people. So, mass hysteria is definitely a main theme in this play. Integrity is another theme, which is mainly exemplified through John Proctor. Though a flawed man, he demonstrates integrity as he confesses his sins, tries to save his friends, and ultimately gives his life so that he doesn't have to lie. So, integrity, human courage, or bravery could be another major theme of the novel.

If you are looking for a moral or lesson, then you have to think about what message you feel Miller is trying to get across, in relation to the themes. For example, "mass hysteria is dangerous and is often not combatted by logic." Or, "mass hysteria is often an outlet for jealousy, greed, rage, insecurities, guilt and weakness." In relation to integrity, a moral could be, "Integrity is the most important human quality that must not be sacrificed, no matter what the cost." So, those statements go along the lines of being lessons or morals, but also tie to the theme.

I hope that helps a bit; I provided a link below that will lead you to more thorough discussion of theme and that should help also. Good luck!

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What is the main action of the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

The main action in Arthur Miller's The Crucible is a trial. The play is a fictionalized take on the famed Salem witch trials that saw a group of young women tried for witchcraft during a period from 1692 to 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. The actual trials were a brutal example of the puritanical beliefs and mob mentality that existed in the early New England colonies. Miller's play is loosely based on these actual historical events and he wrote the play as an allegory to the anti-communist fervor of 1950s America. Many people in this era of McCarthyism felt as if they were being persecuted and had the sense that the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was a kind of "witch hunt."

One of the main characters in The Crucible is Abigail Williams, who is portrayed as being the ringleader of a group of young women accused of Satanism and witchcraft. This starts a process which quickly gets out of hand. The play follows the development of the trial, which degrades into chaos as people turn on one another and accuse each other of witchcraft to cover up for a whole host of indiscretions.

In the end a number of the villagers are found guilty of witchcraft and have their property, and in some cases their lives, taken away. The play's main villain, if there is one, is Thomas Danforth, the chief judge in the trial. He refuses to stop the proceedings even as the whole process tears the community apart—he serves as a suitable stand-in for Senator Joseph McCarthy, architect of HUAC and the anti-communist craze of the 1950s.

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What is the main theme of The Crucible and what does it mean?

I think that with a text like Miller's The Crucible, different themes can be seen and different meanings to those themes can be attached.  I would suggest that one of the strongest themes in the text is how politics is a part of the daily lives of the individual.  The drama sticks to this idea from start to finish.

Politics in terms of power and control is a part of the world in which we live. This is a theme that is seen in the girls wanting to go out to the woods and dance, thereby displaying their power to flout the law and conventions of Salem.  It is seen in the manufacturing of witches and demons, yet another way in which power and political control is exerted.  It is seen in the role of the church, as well.  Reverend Parris is concerned with losing his power and control over others that is afforded to him as head of the Salem church.  It is seen in how Putnam wishes to control more land, thereby taking advantage of those who are accused.  It is seen in how Mrs. Putnam turns to the supernatural in order to have some power and control over the death that has stalked her children and her own life.  It is evident in how Danforth and Hathorne control their courtroom and display some evidence, while keeping other forms of it silent.  It is seen in how Abigail constructs accusation after accusation in order to keep control over her world and covet Proctor.  The theme of power through politics is an essential one in Miller's text.

The meaning of the theme in terms of its relevance is one area where the drama is a powerful one.  In the final analysis, Miller suggests two realities from this theme. The first is that power is a part of the world in which we live. It does not do an individual any good to pretend that it does not exist.  Proctor tries to evade this responsibility, his responsibility, and fails.  Giles Corey makes the fatal error of speaking without an eye to the political structure. Individuals must be mindful of those ensnared in politics and the level of meaning this carries in their own world is significant.  However, Miller also suggests that while the world around us is filled with political creatures and those who act for political gain, honorable human beings do not have to succumb to it.  Miller delivers a path for individuals to understand truly liberating notions of the good, one that transcends politics.  Proctor finds his voice, his "name, and acts in accordance to it and in doing so goes beyond the world of politics that envelops him.  Elizabeth recognizes her husband's "goodness" and is beyond the taint of political control.  When Corey demands for "more weight," it becomes a statement that no matter what political control and manipulation may wish, individuals can be free of such an entangled web. In these ways, Miller's theme and its meaning are timeless and powerful reminders of who we are and how we can live our lives.

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What is the main theme Miller develops through John Proctor in The Crucible?

John Proctor is a wonderful character.  He makes the entire play.  If you haven't seen the movie version of this drama with Daniel Day-Lewis, you owe it to yourself to see it.  Lewis nails the character and brings Proctor to life in a way that is awe inspiring.  

What makes Proctor such a great character is that he is so dynamic.  He's an incredibly multifaceted and relatable character.  He has made a huge mistake by cheating on his wife with Abigail, and he feels incredibly guilty over it.  He's also bound and determined to make it right.  He's a man of deep religious convictions, but he also is a critical thinker when it comes to his religious beliefs.  He's a strong, moral character that is looked up to by many people in the town of Salem.  Despite his flaws, John Proctor is a very good man.  

I really can't pick the theme associated with Proctor, because I don't think there is only one.  He's too dynamic of a character.  One theme that I do think he embodies is the theme of self-respect and/or dignity.  He knows that he made a mistake with Abigail, and he is going to do everything possible to make sure that it never happens again.  

Proctor: Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I'll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.

Furthering the theme of self-respect are Proctor's actions at the end of the play.  He is given the chance to save himself by confessing to a lie, but he is unwilling to do it.  He can't bear the thought of living while other accused held firm in their convictions.  

Proctor: Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence!

Proctor knows that in addition to the guilt he will feel at having confessed a lie to save his own life, he will feel incredibly two faced while trying to raise his own children. 

Proctor: I have three children - how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?

To Proctor, the importance of keeping his good name, to himself and to his friends and family, is of the utmost importance.  

Proctor, with a cry of his whole soul: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! 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!

Proctor shows the theme of self-respect and personal dignity throughout the play, but it is the fact that he is willing to die for his convictions that really sells the theme to the audience.  Even Elizabeth Proctor further emphasizes the theme by telling the audience that John's sacrifice is critical, necessary, and right as the play closes. 

Elizabeth, supporting herself against collapse, grips the bars. of the window, and with a cry: He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!

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