The Imagery Used In Arhur Miller’s The Crucible

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

At the beginning of the play, Miller gives a detailed description of the setting and time. ‘‘A small upper bedroom in the home of Reverrend Samuel Parris, Salem.’’ (Miller 3) The small bedroom indicates that the action starts from a private place. Yet, it will eventually end in a public place. There is a move from the private sphere into the public sphere. ‘‘ There is a narrow window at the left. Through its leaded panes the morning sunlight streams.’’ (3) ‘‘The morning sunlight’’ symbolizes the presence of a God, and the start of a time when everything is still unblemished. It prepares the reader for action. ‘‘ There were a few small-windowed, dark houses snuggling against the raw Massachusetts winter.’’ (3) The use of the motif ‘‘winter’’ indicates the beginning of a dark cold era; it also indicates stagnation, madness, and despair. The motif ‘‘dark’’ suggests ignorance, evil, and witchcraft. ‘‘ A candle still burns near the bed.’’(3) the ‘‘candle’’ symbolizes that there is hope. This detailed imagery makes the play realistic, to some extent, to the reader.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible shaped his characters in order to fit gender roles of that period. In the seventeenth century, society was mainly dominated by men. In The Crucible, male characters have agency over female characters and hold all positions of control and power. This binary relations between men and women are at play in The Crucible. On the one hand, female characters are perceived in a negative light as unwomanly and evil. These characteristics given to women in the play put them in a position of inferiority and otherness. Male characters are portrayed as tough, powerful, and authoritarian. The more authority a man has, the more masculine Puritan society perceives him. A good sample in this case is the respectful and powerful judge Danforth. Throughout the play, Danforth makes mindless decisions for the mere reason not to be taken as weak by society.

Miller is juxtaposing men and women, putting men in a rather upper and privileged status than women. Men are focused on the good of the overall community; while women are focused on the destruction of the community. With that being said, female characters are perceived as the evil other. Only women are accused of witchcraft, men also but they are a minority, making them more susceptible to the devil because of their fragility. Women are portrayed as malicious, weak, and untrustworthy. The untrustworthiness lays in the court when Elizabeth was dishonest to protect her husband’s name in the court scene. She says: ‘‘ I came to think he fancied her. And so one night I lost my wits, I think, and put her out on the highroad.’’ (Miller 91) Although she knows about Proctor’s adultery with Abigail, her willingness to protect her husband’s reputation pushes her to lie and thus become unreliable to the audience. Elizabeth is represented as an ideal Puritan wife.

Abigail is described as ‘‘a beautiful girl . . . with an endless capacity for dissembling.’’ this statement suggests that she is a persuasive liar. For instance, she accuses Tituba for bewitching the girls. More importantly, Abigail’s affair with John Proctor suggests another side of her as being sexual and weak. She tempts to seduce Proctor using her youthful body. Abigail says to John: ‘‘I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near! I saw your face when she put me out, you love me then and you do now’’ (18) the sexual relation puts Abigail in a position of weakness and objectivity. The attempt to eliminate Elizabeth Proctor from her way demonstrates Abigail’s malicious side. The use of a simile in Abigail’s statement ‘‘sweated like a stallion’’ indicates the position of power and control Proctor has over Abigail. Proctor considers Abigail’s actions as childlike. Moreover, he perceives her as mere flesh and an object which he can manipulate with no empathy.

Proctor’s affair with Abigail is not to be neglected. Bearing in mind that the commitment of adultery in a Puritan society is unacceptable and is considered a sin. Besides, both sinners are punished.(cf. Gail) Although throughout the witch trials Proctor admits his act of adultery, it is taken lightly switching the emphasis again to witchcraft. Be it a woman instead in Proctor’s situation, it would certainly not have been overlooked. The woman will be held accountable for her bad deeds and thus suspended. The weaker sex is often put in a vulnerable position. Contrastingly, Proctor is neither blamed nor punished for his sin. Even though he is a sinner, he admits it and lives with it confidently. The act of witchery that Abigail does is an escape from her reality. Her devilish side could be interpreted by the fact that she is an orphan. Witchcraft gives women what men took away from them and that is power to accomplish their desires. We can notice gender inequality in play here or as I like to call it gender war. I strongly believe that if feminism and the approach of equal rights for both sexes were present at that time, we would have avoided earlier discussed issues.

A greater number of the accusers and accused of sorcery are women. In the play, the Puritan society regards female characters as fragile, inferior, and weaker than male characters. As Karlsen claims that the accused women were considered as disobedient and as opponent to the existing Puritan patriarchal system of society. Besides, Karlsen points out that the trials were mainly a way to preserve male hegemony and keep women subordinate to men. Women living in a Puritan society had to be what society expected of them. They had to be subservient, pious, and to act accordingly.

The majority of the accused were women from the lower strata of society. Social class can also impact one’s life, especially women’s life quality. Female characters from the lower class are powerless, and therefore, they can neither defend themselves nor make their voice heard.

Nevertheless, male characters hold positions of power such as clergy and judges. Men who possess power use it for their own concern. Men’s power in the court might result in an arbitrary decision making as it is mainly single dimensional. There is no woman to be seen in the court which gives the audience the impression of a one gendered hegemony. Besides, female characters in the court were treated awfully and manipulated by male characters. It represents how female characters are inferior to male characters. In Miller’s play, men deal with the good of the community and women with the bad, in this case witchcraft.

Reis notes that in New England, women were more predisposed to be approached by the devil than men. According to the Puritan ideology, the soul of a living creature is effeminate, and thus more susceptible to the devil. (cf. Reis 16) a female body in a feminine soul is more qualified to be possessed by the Satan. To put it differently, women are an easy target for the Devil. Satan is appealed to women more than men because of their brittleness and weakness. Women are thus easier to haunt. The latter explains why all the persons involved in witchcraft are female characters.

Miller’s characters undulate between opposite spheres such as good and evil as well as black and white. These binary opposition and use of color pattern calls for segregation or as Wolfe calls it the ‘’logic of elimination.” (Wolfe 119) The Salem community wanted to exclude Tituba. Blacks are associated with evil and whites with purity. The mere color difference creates discrimation which turns into abuse and maltreatment. Whites have a positive connotation and power, while blacks have a negative connotation such as poor and evil. For instance, Tituba is treated inhumanely by her white female counterparts and is therefore seen in a negative light by all members of Puritan society, be it white males or white females. 


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