The Crucible - Themes

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: kateq
  • Created on: 19-05-13 18:31


  • theocratic society - church and state are one
  • therefore sin and the status of an individual's soul are matters of public concern
  • everything/everyone belongs to either God or the Devil.
  • Danforth (act iii): "a person is either with this court or be must be counted against it."
  • witch trials - ultimate expresison of intolerance
  • hanging witches - ultimate means of restoring community's purity
  • no tolerance for devil-worship - must confess and accuse others.
1 of 8


  • hysteria tears the community apart
  • enables people to believe that their neighbours, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing crimes
  • communing with the devil, killing babies etc.
  • hysteria gives them a chance to act on long-held grudges
  • Abigail - accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft so she can be with John
  • Reverend Parris - strengthens his position within the village by making scapegoats of people who question his authorty
  • Thomas Putnam - accuses Rebecca Nurse of the murder of Ann Putnam's babies
  • hysteria can only thrive because people benefit from it
  • allows the acting out of dark desires under the cover of righteousness
2 of 8


  • very important in Salem
  • fear of guilt by assosciation - the sins of their friends and assosciates will taint their names
  • Parris - Abigail's questionable actions, witchcraft around Betty's coma
  • Proctor - affair with Abigail keeps him from testifying against her.
3 of 8


  • empower characters who were previously marginalized in Salem society
  • in general, women occupy the lowest rung of male-dominated Salem, few options in life
  • work as servants for townsmen until they are old enough to be married off & have children
  • Abigail - unmarried young girl.
  • Also slave to Proctor's sexual whims - strips away her innocence when he commits adultery with her
  • arouses spiteful jealousy wen he terminates affair
  • greatest fear of theocratic community - defiance of God - Abigail accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship draw lots of attention of court
  • Abigail aligns herself with God - gains power over society (and girls) - her word becomes virtually unassailable
  • Tituba - despite being black - deflect blame from herself by accusing others - gives her some kind of power
4 of 8

Accusations, confessions and legal proceedings

  • witch trials - central to the action of The Crucible
  • act i - Parris accusing Abigail of dishonouring him
  • entire witch trial system thrives on accusations
  • only way that witches can be identified
  • confessions provide proof of the justice of the court proceedings
5 of 8

The witch trials and McCarthyism

  • the whole play can be seen as a symbol of the paranoia about communism in the 1950s
  • Miller's main concern in The Crucibe is the unwillingness of the court officials to believe that they are not actually witches
6 of 8


  • several characters in the play face dilemmas of conscience
  • following conscience must withstand the desire to preserve one's good name, freedom, life.
  • it is not the duty of good Christians to follow their individual consciences, but to obey the rulings of the church (e.g. Danforth and Parris)
  • conflict between duty and self-interest, conscience and obedience - plunges Salem into tragedy
  • Proctor - only when tragedy strikes his family he follows his conscience - too late
  • Proctor's decision central to the drama - leads to his spiritual development - moral integrity becomes more important than his name
  • Hale - indecisive about what to believe - the church or Proctor
  • Elizabeth - indecisive about telling the truth and lying for Proctor's good name
  • John has to take in several concepts - good name in the community, worldly gain versus spiritual salvation, loyalty to his own desires, duty to wife, family and neighbours, personal integrity
7 of 8

Evil and fear


  • abigails dissembling (concealing one's true beliefs, motives, feelings)
  • self-centeredness of Parris
  • Putnam's mean and avaricious view of life
  • lying and pretence of Abigal accusing the people of Salem
  • Abigail's "marvellous cool plot to murder"


  • witch hunts caused and fuelled by fear.
  • only Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey seem unafraid
  • hysteria of girls - from fear of being punished for dancing in the forest
  • creates an atmosphere where fear becomes the motivating force
  • fear of being accused - neighbours to accuse others
  • Parris- fear of losing position - leads him to join the witch hunt
  • Proctor - fear of adultery being made public - delays him discrediting Abigail
  • Mary Warren - fear of Abigail - withdraw accusations against her and accuse Proctor instead
  • Elizabeth - fear for husband's good name - lie destroys evidence against Abigail
8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all The Crucible resources »