The Crucible by Arthur Miller was written in 1952 and published in 1953. Miller uses light and darkness as symbols, a way portray tone and a way to characterize the character in the play. He also uses symbolism as a way to foreshadow the events that will take place later on in the play.
Light in this story is connected to good and divinity. Even Though this is never stated in the story, it is safe to assume since light has been connected to these many times before in other stories. As stated in How to Read Literature Like a Professor Revised: a Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines What the database relies upon, naturally, is repetition. If enough writers use a given object or situation in enough works, we start to recognize and understand the range of possible meanings (Foster 242). Since many other stories before The Crucible have used the connection of light to divinity and/ or good, it is safe to assume that this story will do the same.
In Act 1 of The Crucible light is seen in the first few sentences of the introduction. The stage directions call for a narrow window in the left part of the room with light shining through it and a candle burning next to Reverend Parris who is kneeling beside the bed while praying. The open window and burning candle symbolizes an opening to God. Here, Reverend is praying for his daughter who he believes had been witched. By symbolizing the opening to God, it is evident from the beginning how much they rely on God or the church to fix their problems and lead them the right way. In the introduction that is leading into the dialogue of Act 1, it explains that they believed they held the candle that would light the world (Miller 22). The candle here represents knowledge and by lighting the world, they believe they will cause both an intellectual and spiritual enlightenment for everyone. In the introduction to Hale, it is stated that his goal is light (Miller 41). His goal being light means that he hopes to bring holiness and peace to the people of the town by leading them which is why he plays a big part in the trials.
In Act 2 of The Crucible, when discussing baptism, Proctor justifies his decision of not baptizing all his children by stating that he sees no light of God (Miller 60) in the pastor.. Since light is used to represent holiness and knowledge, this can be taken two ways. Proctor either believes that Reverend of the town knows nothing of God or he has no holiness to him. Aside from symbolism it also serves to characterize John Proctor. By doubting the holiness of the priest, it is shown that he is not so susceptible to the control of the church. He’s not as profoundly into the church and isn’t driven by it completely like most of the town is. Another instance is when Hale is talking about murder and he is worried that it was never brought to light (Miller 68). Bringing something to light means to acknowledge it or make it known so this also shows that Hale has only good intentions since he doesn’t want to hide any murders.
The mention of the dark/darkness also serves as symbolism as well as characterization, similar to how light did. In almost every situation, light and darkness are the complete opposite of each other. Therefore, it is only natural that darkness is the symbolism for evil and demons. it is believed that the demons are afraid of the light hence their relationship to the darkness. People believe that darkness foreshadows the coming of evil. It is also a common thing for people to fear the dark. This is because the dark represents the unknown and death, two things that terrify humans. In the end, darkness is and will almost always be connected to negativity and/or evil.
In the first act of The Crucible the town is described as having a few small-windowed, dark houses (Miller 22). This helps set the tone for the play since a dark town seems ominous. When Mr. Putnam accuses a witch of being bound to keep herself in the dark, it can be taken two ways. She is either trying to keep herself hidden and not be acknowledged since the dark represents that unknown. The other possibility is that she is at all costs going to stay on the evil path. Another instance of the dark being a symbolism od cause of the unknown was when Titube was co testing yet she couldn’t tell her whole confession because according to her, it was black dark (Miller 47)
In the second act of The Crucible, the scene starts of in a low, dark and rather long living room (Miller 49). The darkness here does two things. The first thing it does is set an Ominous tone like it did in the first scene. The second thing it does is foreshadow the tragedies caused by evil that are to come later in that scene. When Hale is speaking about the powers of the dark attacking their village, it shows how controlled they ate by Abigail because not for one second do they doubt her. It shows that Hale is a man that is easily persuaded and extremely gullible.
- Gale, Thomson. Light and Darkness. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed, Encyclopedia.com, 2018,www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/light-and-darkness.
- Kampf, Diane. Dark & Light Symbolism in Literature. Pen and the Pad, 21 Nov. 2017, penandthepad.com/dark-light-symbolism-literature-12280020.html.
- Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York, Penguin Books, 2003. PDF file.
- Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor Revised: a Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines. Harper Perennial, 2014.