Sydney Levy IB Candidate #000536-XXX HL English: World Literature Assignment 21 May 2013 Moral Instruction in The Crucible The world-famous and highly influential play, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, was written in an effort to make the public aware of one of the most awful chapters in history, and the goal of the author was to use the characters and events as a vehicle to communicate the moral lessons that should be learned from these examples of flawed human behavior. Various themes and motifs that illustrate important morals are explored extensively throughout the play.The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is indeed considered a great piece of literary art and does inevitably give moral instruction through the author’s use of the themes and motifs of reputation, intolerance, and the seduction of power. Reputation is tremendously important to citizens and people in positions of authority in Salem, a theocratic society where public and private moralities are one and the same.
Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their associates and acquaintances will taint their names, and the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly common.There are various characters that base their actions on the desire to protect their delicate reputations. As the play begins, Reverend Parris becomes concerned that his niece Abigail’s increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s coma, will threaten his reputation as a good minister and force him from the pulpit. In Act I, Parris says, “I pray you leap not to witchcraft…They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house…” (Miller 13).
He does not want people to associate him, a priest, with any form of witchcraft, because in that society they associate practices of witchcraft with the Devil. Meanwhile, John Proctor, the protagonist, also seeks to keep his good name by not testifying against Abigail in order to hide his inappropriate actions that he has committed. However, towards the end of the play, Proctor’s desire to preserve his reputation leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement. “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! ” (Miller 133). Procter cries desperately to Danforth in Act IV. Proctor redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity by refusing to relinquish his name.
Also, Abigail tries to deflect the blame of witchcraft on herself by accusing others and concocting grandiose and unrealistic lies in order to protect her reputation.In Act I, Abigail expresses her jealousy of Elizabeth, which fuels her accusations, “She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! ” (Miller 22). In this passage we can see the desperation of Abigail to protect her own reputation by putting others down. The desire to preserve one’s reputation can grow very strong and sometimes overpower good judgment.
It is important to note the cases in which reputation is given a higher in priority than what is morally right, and we can see that this has negative consequences most of the time.In the theocratic society in which The Crucible is set, the church and the state are essentially one entity and the religion is a strict form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. Sin and status of an individual’s soul are matters of public concern, and there is absolutely no room for even the slightest deviation from social norms, since any individual whose personal life doesn’t conform to the established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good but also to the rule of God and true religion. In Salem, there is very little tolerance, and everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil.
This dichotomy functions as the basic underlying logic behind the witch trials. Reverend Hale states in regard to the witch trials, “We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise. ” (Miller 31). He says this because he is trying to communicate his religious views and is exerting his opinion on others, whether it is truly accurate or not. As Danforth says in Act III, “But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between.
This is a sharp time, now, a precise time—we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and efuddled the world. Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it. ” (Miller 87). This statement accurately sums up the attitude of the authorities toward the witch trials.
In his own right, Danforth is indeed an honorable man, but, like everyone else in Salem, he sees the world in black and white. Since the court is conducting the witch trials, anyone who questions the trials, such as Proctor or Giles Corey, is the court’s enemy. From that point, the logic is simple: the court does God’s work, so an enemy of the court must, necessarily, be a servant of the Devil.Parris, being a preacher, also expresses his prejudice towards anyone who is not of his Christian faith, as he states, “All innocent and Christian people are happy for the courts in Salem! ” (Miller 87).
This of course illustrates the extreme intolerance of their society, and we should learn from the grave mistakes and rash decisions made in their society and become more tolerant and accepting in our modern day society. The seduction of power is a very prominent theme that emerges throughout the play through several different characters.The witch trials empower several characters in the play that are normally very powerless in the Puritan society of Salem. In general, women occupy the lowest rung of a male-dominated Salem and have very few career options in life. They work as servants for townsmen until they are old enough to be married off and have children of their own.
Abigail is not only restricted by the preceding rules of society, but she is also a slave to her relationship with John Proctor, who strips away her innocence when he commits adultery with her, and thus arouses her spiteful jealousy when he terminates their affair.This fiery envy that Abigail possesses grows to be more and more intense and fuels her motives for beginning her accusations of others practicing witchcraft. Being involved in such a big to-do as a court trial was an opportunity for Abigail to get much more attention than she usually does, as she was previously somewhat neglected, and it also gave her the power to make strong accusations in front of a jury who listened to what she was saying and valued it to a certain extent. Abigail really takes advantage of this chance for her to get attention as we can see from this quote in Act III, “I have been hurt, Mr.
Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin’ out! I have been near to murdered every day because I done my duty pointing out the Devil’s people—and this is my reward? To me mistrusted, denied, questioned like a—” (Miller 100). Abigail is clearly abusing the power she has in this situation and taking advantage of this chance to exaggerate the situation as much as possible. By attempting to align herself, in the eyes of others, with God’s will, she gains power over society, as do other girls in her group, and their world becomes virtually unassailable.Tituba, whose status is lower than that of anyone else in the play by virtue of the fact that she is of a completely different ethnic background, manages similarly to deflect blame from herself by accusing others. “Mister Reverend, I do believe somebody else be witchin’ with these children.
” (Miller 42). Mr. Putnam is yet another citizen of Salem who is seeking power, as he exploits the witch trials, hoping that he will gain land from all of the accused families. “Mr. Parris, I have taken your part in all contention here, and I would continue; but I cannot if you hold back in this.
There are hurtful, vengeful spirits layin’ hands on these children. ” (Miller 15) Where there is a lack of power, the desire for power grows stronger, and sometimes when power is given to individuals who don’t usually have power, those individuals have the tendency to abuse the power. In conclusion, author Arthur Miller has created this literary masterpiece that has exposed one of the most terrible events in human history in an effort to let future generations learn from the mistakes that were made in the time period of the Salem witch trials.Throughout The Crucible, many themes and motifs are communicated, and these lessons inevitably and essentially give valuable moral instruction. The events that the author illustrated in his classic drama will continue to teach the audience about this chapter in the past, and hopefully through the spread of this play and the learning of important morals and lessons in it, this part of history will not repeat itself.
1,561 words Works Cited Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York, NY: Penguin, 1996. Print.