In what ways does Miller succeed in making the moment when Proctor tears up his confession particularly dramatic? “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller shows many themes of what life could have been like in the seventeenth century. The play is set in the town of Salem, amongst a Puritan society. The characters in the play are deeply religious. Anyone who was considered to be a witch was condemned to death. Any sort of witchcraft was considered as worshiping the devil, which is totally against their faith. The story is based on a series of accusations which culminate in a large court case.
The main theme of the play examines whether or not the main character can remain truthful to his faith even if the result is death. This becomes apparent in the last scene of the play (Act 4) when John Proctor, is faced with the confession. Eventually, John gets exasperated with the court, tears up the confession, and destined to be hung. The irony of whether Proctor will sign the confession or tear it up is dramatic since so much of what happened before is based on lies. He can either sign the confession and live a lie, or die for the truth.
Proctor says on page 109, “I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint”, showing moral reasoning with cause and effect of the confession. This makes the theme more dramatic. Proctor understands that he has done wrong by having an affair with Abigail, and does not see why he should be forgiven for that, “It is a fraud. I am not that man”. All this builds tension, making the audience inquisitive about what John’s decision will be – will he live a lie or die for the truth? Near the start of the play, in Act 2, we see John and his wife, Elizabeth at home together. It is obvious to the audience that their relationship is plain and static.
For example, John says, “It’s winter in here yet”, and “You ought to bring in some flowers”. These quotations suggest that John associates his marriage with coldness and the flowers could symbolise new life. It would give the impression that John would like some excitement in his marriage. However, by looking at act 4 we can see a contrast in the way they talk to each other. For instance, Proctor says, “The child? ” and Elizabeth replies, “It grows”. Here, the couple are being more open about the way they feel. The child can be seen as the new life that was missing in their relationship before.
With the child grows the rebirth of their love. This is dramatic because it shows that although Proctor is faced with death, he still has time for his wife and clearly cares greatly about her. Great passion is evident in the relationship between John and Elizabeth in act 4, by the way they express their feelings. She tells John, “I never knew how I should say my love”, now explaining the depth of her love for him. Their once cold relationship finds the fire it was missing. Furthermore, Miller uses the stage direction in this sequence to add to the drama of Proctor’s eventual destruction of the confession.