Arthur Miller was born on the 17th of October 1915, in New York. He grew up in Harlem. He was a playwright from the 1930’s onwards. His first big success was the play All My Sons. In 1953 Miller wrote his most politically significant work, The Crucible. It was based on the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials. We can find certain parallels between the story of the trials and the communists ‘witch hunts’ of the 1950’s. After World War 2, to super powers find themselves facing each other, the USA and the USSR. Slowly, the USSR grew more threatening and powerful. There was an all-out arms race going on.
There was a growing fear in America, that communism would take over the American way of life. This was The Cold War. In this climate of fear, a United States Senator, Joseph McCarthy, alleged that government departments were being infiltrated by communists and he waged a campaign against them. In 1956, Miller found that he was accused of being a communist and was persecuted, and in 1957, he was convicted of contempt of the congress for not giving names of suspected communists in America. All this happened in Millers life just after he had written The Crucible; in fact, it was part of the reason why he was accused.
But we can find certain parallels between Miller and a character in the play by the name of John Proctor. Proctor is the central character of the play; and we follow him throughout the tragic events in Salem. Described as a farmer in his thirties, outwardly he appears a man of integrity and good sense. He has a sound reputation within the community even if he is not liked by all of his neighbours. We first meet Proctor when he goes to see Betty Parris, but he has a secret unknown by most in his village. Proctor has committed the sin of adultery with a girl in his village, Abigail Williams.
Abigail is another very important character in the play as she was the one to start the whole witch hunt. Proctor enters the room where Betty lies and the reaction he gets from Mary Warren is interesting. (Stage Direction): Enter John Proctor. On seeing him, Mary Warren leaps in fright. (Act 1, Page 16)This tells us that Proctor is fear by Mary. Other people in the village also fear Proctor such as Mercy Lewis. Mercy: (both afraid of him and strangely titillated): I’d best be off. I have my Ruth to watch. Good morning Mr Proctor. So we know that there is a general fear of Proctor in the village.
We find out in Act 1 that Proctor has committed the sin of adultery with Abigail. We find this out when Proctor and Abigail are left alone in a room; they have a small conversation. Abigail: Give me a word john. A soft word Proctors reaction her advances suggest to us that he is ashamed of his actions and feels guilty, but Abigail shows that she still has feelings for him when she says Abigail: John-I am waitin’ for you every night (Act 1, page 17). But Proctor firmly makes it clear to her that he does not wish to maintain their false relation ship.
Proctor: Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched Abby. (Act 1, page 18) This relationship between Proctor and Abigail is dramatic irony because only three characters in the play have any knowledge about it. We find out that Abigail used to work for the Proctors but when Proctor wife, Elizabeth finds out about the affair, she kicks her out. The relationship between Proctor and Abigail’s uncle, Reverend Samuel Parris is also made clear. Proctor does not like Proctor for a number of reasons.
One reason being is that Proctor believes that Parris doesn’t mention god in church enough any more. Evidence of this is in a remark that Proctor makes while arguing with Putnam. Proctor: I have trouble enough without I come five miles to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention god any more. (Act 1, Page 23) He also mentions that many other people don’t come to church because of Parris. This suggests that many other people do not think highly of him.