The Salem Witch Trials in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

Introduction: The Dark Story of Salem

In the Infamous Historical Events Hall of Fame, the Salem Witch Trial would definitely hit the top five. A story of one of the most contrived cases and the most gruesome execution (“The Man of Iron: Giles Corey” para. 4), the Salem Witch Hunt has been retold in a million ways. Arthur Miller’s interpretation, The Crucible, is, perhaps, the most well-known one. Though Miller has made a range of changes to the original, the alterations did not prevent from understanding the case better; instead, these changes allowed for updating the story so that it would be interesting to a modern audience.

The Salem Witch Hunt and Henry Miller’s Interpretation

A closer look at the story will reveal that most changes made to it concerned the character of Abigail Williams. The specified characters were not quite crucial to the original story, where the focus was on Giles Corey. Miller, however, made these characters central to his rendition of the case.

What goes against the character

First and most obvious, the fact that Abigail Williams testified against John Procter and not his wife should be mentioned (Burns para. 12). Indeed, according to the existing evidence, Abigail claimed Procter to be a wizard. This stands in sharp contrast with what Miller told in his version of the story.

The affair that was not

Further investigation shows that the romantic plotline regarding Abigail Williams and John Procter (Miller 22) was, in fact, Miller’s invention. Indeed, in reality, the relationships between the two were far not that close, and the adultery issue was never raised during the trial. Perhaps, Miller altered the story so that the readers could empathize with the characters. This explains why, in reality, Abigail did testify against John Procter.

Age issues: the real Abigail Williams

A quick rundown of the Salem Trial facts will reveal why the aforementioned relationships between Abigail and Procter could not take place: in fact, the real Williams was only eleven at the time that the court case occurred. Naturally, to create the tension and establish a romantic setting, Miller had to make Abigail’s character of the full legal age.

Why Reinventing the Wheel: Fueling the Story

With all these differences in mind, though, one must ask oneself whether the inconsistencies with the actual story matter that much. A closer look at the play will reveal that historical accuracy was not what Miller pursued; instead, the author was obviously aiming at creating an allegory for the events that he witnessed at the time in the United States. To be more specific, the McCarthyism of the 1950s is obviously referenced in the novel (“Salem Witch Trials” para. 8). If no changes had been made to the plot, the reference would not have been that obvious.

Alterations and the Understanding of the Event

Despite the fact that the changes made by Miller may be viewed as needlessly forced in, they, in fact, forward the story and allow for character development. Indeed, the changes made to the play allowed for creating a drama and making the characters more relatable. By thinking up a love story, Miller added even ore conflict to an already complicated issue and introduced his characters as three-dimensional and complex. Therefore, though the changes would have seemed odd in a documentary, they factored in a historical fiction quite naturally.

Works Cited

Burns, Margo. “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: fact & Fiction.” 17th Century Colonial New England. 2011. Web.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York City, NY: Viking Press. 1953. Web.

“Salem Witch Trials.” History.com. n. d. Web.

“The Man of Iron: Giles Corey.” UMKC School of Law. n. d. Web.

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