Miller said The Crucible was about “the conflict between a man’s raw deeds and his conception of himself” Discuss how Miller has used conflict in one scene and how this relates to conflict throughout the play, as well as its social and historical context. The Crucible is a play, which contains many conflicts throughout: the conflict between characters; the conflict between those characters’ deeds and their conception of themselves: conflict within their minds; the thematic turmoil between truth and lies, innocence and experience/guilt, justice and injustice and the individual and the community.
Structure and dramatic devices reflect conflict as well: this is one of the most important tools the playwright has to get across real feelings to the audience Many people in The Crucible have a conflict in their character between their raw deeds and their conception of themselves for example Parris, Proctor, Danforth. One of these is John Proctor, the main character of the play, who for the majority of the play, believes he is a bad person but actually does good deeds. This conflict in the play is based upon the conflict within John’s mind.
I have chosen to concentrate my study on Act four, focusing on the scene from page 107 to the end of the play. I have chosen this scene because it shows resolutions of some of the conflicts in the play and highlights others that have not been resolved. There are various different areas of conflict in the scene I am studying. When writing about The Crucible it is important to consider the social and historical context of the play. The play is based on events leading up to and including the witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692.
Firstly there was divergence within Salem community. Since it was a Puritan society it faced conflict with the outside world. The fathers of the inhabitants of Salem had been persecuted in England and involved themselves in much conflict. There was a strict code of moral guidelines, which must be followed. There were obviously conflicts between individuals’ beliefs and what was acceptable. There were often arguments and bickering about land that created arguments between neighbours and this led to resentment, bitterness and obviously conflict.
“The land war he fought with his neighbours” p20 is the first we hear about Francis Nurse whose wife later was hanged for witchcraft. Even though this was not the trigger which set off the witch trials it was one of the long-term trends that build conflict up and set neighbour against neighbour. There was also conflict within American 1950s society when the play was written. It was produced in 1953 in the middle of the McCarthy political “witch-hunt” in America.
There had always been conflict between people with different ways of life especially of that between Communists and Capitalists. The Capitalist world was afraid of Communism taking over. Under the chairmanship of Senator Joseph McCarthy the House Un-American Activities Committee, an organisation that investigated people who threatened the safety of the state, became almost paranoid in seeking out communist sympathisers. The actual witch -hunt, even though it existed in reality, in this play is a symbol of the political witch-hunt of 1950s USA.
This draws a clear parallel with the scene I am studying in which Hathorne, Parris and Danforth force Proctor to lose his reputation and to confirm of others’ witchcraft accusations just as the House Un-American Activities Committee interrogated people working in the American film industry. This play continues to be relevant today because of continued world conflicts and resultant paranoia. A good example of this, in my opinion, is the events of September 11th and the way after that so many people were ready to accuse others especially persisting “urban myths” about Muslims.