The Importance of Context in The Crucible by Aurthur Miller Essay
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Context influences all texts, whether it be a novel, play or movie. It is the reader’s knowledge of the historical and cultural background influencing a text, which allows enrichment of reading and understanding that can be gained from a text. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play which is a fitting example of this statement. This is due to the multiple references Miller has made to both the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and to the McCarthy era, the period in which the play was written. Although Miller states “this play is not history”, it serves as an allegory for both time periods and it was the appreciation I had for the historical and cultural context of these time periods which enriched my understanding and reading of the play.
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They also believed that confessions of their sins saved them from themselves, a similarity with characters from The Crucible where blame placed on someone else constantly, to take guilt from ones self, Abigail began accusing others by saying: "I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osborn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!"(2) Accusations needing to be on anybody but her, Abigail disregards others and accuses them. The Salem Witch Trials, encouraged people to make accusations against their friends and neighbours to gain their own freedom, in scenes as the ones listed previously Miller emphasises and dramatises this idea. Another example of a Puritan theocracy is the punishment of an alternative opinion, as John Proctor yelled in The Crucible, “I say-I say God is dead!”(3) He caused uproar within the community and inevitably the end of his own life. The town felt that because John Proctor believed in something against that of the Court’s which was God’s then he must be working for the Devil and must be killed. The referencing in the play to the periods of time where similar issues of right-wing, conformed views were present was not only linked to The Puritan society but also with McCarthyism, present in the 1950’s.
Arthur Miller wrote the play in the 1950’s at a time where America was undergoing strife under the anti-communist regimes of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The time was riddled with right-wing views, whirlwinds of
The Crucible examines the witch hunts that took place in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. When he wrote it, Arthur Miller was already a successful playwright. The play also subtly refers to the 'communist witch hunts' in the USA in the 1950s.
The context of 'The Crucible'
During the 17th century in Salem, Massachusetts, there really were witch hunts very much like those depicted in this play. Early settlers in North America had fled from religious persecution in England and other European countries but this did not make them more tolerant. They were very intense about religious purity. By modern standards we might call them religious fanatics. They were very intolerant of 'alternative viewpoints.'
Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible
Arthur Miller was born in 1915 in New York. His Jewish parents were both immigrants from Poland. They came to America at a time when people were looking for the economic and religious freedom of 'the American dream'.
Miller's father ran his own tailor's business and the family were very well off. In the 1920s there was a massive financial crisis in America, which is often referred to as the Wall Street Crash (Wall Street was where the New York financial and banking centre was located). The Miller family was ruined and the impact of the loss on Miller's parents, especially his father, made a big impression on the young Arthur. He saw it as a failure of the American dream and of the economic system (known as capitalism) on which his family had built their hopes of a better life.
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