an essay on the crucible

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  • The Crucible

Arthur Miller

  • Literature Notes
  • Essay Questions
  • Play Summary
  • About The Crucible
  • Character List
  • Summary and Analysis
  • Act I: Scene 1
  • Act I: Scene 2
  • Act I: Scene 3
  • Act I: Scene 4
  • Act I: Scene 5
  • Act II: Scene 1
  • Act II: Scene 2
  • Act II: Scene 3
  • Act II: Scene 4
  • Act III: Scene 1
  • Act III: Scene 2
  • Act III: Scene 3
  • Act IV: Scene 1
  • Act IV: Scene 2
  • Act IV: Scene 3
  • Act IV: Scene 4
  • Character Analysis
  • Abigail Williams
  • John Proctor
  • Reverend Hale
  • Character Map
  • Arthur Miller Biography
  • Critical Essays
  • Arthur Miller's Narrative Technique in The Crucible
  • Historical Period: Puritans in Salem
  • Full Glossary for The Crucible
  • Practice Projects
  • Cite this Literature Note

Study Help Essay Questions

1. A crucible is defined as a severe test. Write an essay discussing the significance of the title. What is "the crucible" within the play and how does it bring about change or reveal an individual's true character?

2. As a minister, Reverend Parris is supposed to devote himself to the spiritual welfare of the inhabitants of Salem. Write an essay discussing Parris' concerns and motivations. Is he an effective minister?

3. Write an essay discussing Proctor's relationship with Abigail. Why did Proctor have an affair, and what prompted him to end his affair with Abigail?

4. Compare and contrast Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams. What are their individual positive character traits? Negative character traits? How do they feel about Proctor?

5. Elizabeth despises deception. She is a moral woman, devoted to upholding the truth. Discuss Elizabeth's behavior in the court. What prompts her to lie?

6. Write an essay discussing Abigail's plan to get rid of Elizabeth. Is the play a fulfillment of the spell she cast in the woods with Tituba?

7. Write an essay discussing the effects of the witch trials on Salem. How do the trials affect the community? Government and authority? The church? Individuals?

8. In Act IV, Scene 4, Proctor agrees to falsely confess in order to avoid death. He later changes his mind. Explain why he refuses to confess. What is the "shred of goodness" he discovers?

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, most important themes in the crucible, analyzed.

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The Crucible remains a staple of high school English because it is rich in themes that are consistently relevant to human beings regardless of time period. But these themes aren't always easy to explain or dissect in the context of the play, and they can be even harder to develop into essays. Read on for an overview of what a theme is, a list of important themes in The Crucible with specific act-by-act details, and a summary of how to use this information in your essays and other assignments.  

What’s a Theme? Why Are Themes Important?

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how  The Crucible  themes are expressed, let's do a quick overview of what themes are and why they matter. A theme is a central topic that is addressed by a work of literature. Themes can be expressed in many different ways. In the case of a play like The Crucible , themes are revealed mainly through the dialogue of the characters. They're also revealed though events in the plot. 

Themes tell us what the purpose of the work is. What is the writer attempting to convey to the viewer? The Crucible 's themes have lent the play artistic longevity because they're more or less universal to the human experience across time.  If you hope to write an awesome essay on  The Crucible , you should have extensive knowledge of its themes. If you can show that you understand the themes of a work of literature, you've clearly mastered the material on a deeper level.  In the next few sections, I'll take a look at a group of broad themes in  The Crucible , including irony, hysteria, reputation, and power.

Theme 1: Irony

First off, what is irony? Many people are under the impression that irony is just when something happens that you don't expect (or that you really hoped wouldn't happen). In reality, true irony only happens when a situation is the exact opposite of what you would expect.  The classic example of an incorrect use of irony is in Alanis Morisette's song "Ironic" when she says that "rain on your wedding day" is an example of irony. Well, it's not. Sure, you don't expect or want rain, but it's not the polar opposite of getting married. A real example of irony would be if two married guests got into a fight about going to your wedding that ended in their divorce.

Irony abounds throughout The Crucible  as  characters who believe they are combating the Devil’s handiwork actually perform it themselves.   The ruthlessness with which the suspected witches are treated is aimed at purifying Salem, but it achieves the opposite outcome. The town slips further and further into chaos and paranoia until it reaches a point of total devastation.  As Reverend Hale says to Danforth, “Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlots’ cry will end his life - and you wonder yet if rebellion’s spoke?” (Act 4, pg. 121).

The court's attempts to preserve Puritan morality by arresting and executing accused witches ironically lead to the removal of the most virtuous people from society. These people are the only ones who refuse to throw out false accusations or lie about involvement in witchcraft, so they find themselves condemned (this is the fate of Rebecca Nurse). This means that much of the population that remains is comprised of the power-hungry, the selfish, and the cowardly. 

There are several ironies in Act 1 that center around Abigail Williams. In her conversation with John, Abigail claims that he helped her realize all the lies she was told by two-faced people in Salem who only publicly adhere to the conventions of respectable society (pg. 22).  The irony is that, in the face of John’s rejection, Abigail turns around and creates her own lies soon after that give her increased control over the society she resents.  She puts on a fake front to get what she wants, ultimately creating a persona that’s even worse than that of the hypocrites she criticizes.   Abigail’s many deceptions are sometimes laughably ironic as she chastises others for lying even as she is spinning falsehoods.  In this act, she yells “Don’t lie!” at Tituba immediately before she tells some of the most damning lies of the play accusing Tituba of witchcraft (“ She comes to me while I sleep; she’s always making me dream corruptions!” pg. 41).

Hale also makes some unintentionally ironic statements in Act 1 when he begins his investigation.  He claims that they must not jump to conclusions based on superstition in their investigation of Betty’s affliction.  Hale is convinced that a scientific inquiry based only on facts and reality can be conducted to detect a supernatural presence. This is ironic because   searching for "the Devil's marks" as the potential cause of an ailment is inherently superstitious.

Once the accusations begin, Parris initiates an ironic thought process that persists throughout The Crucible: “You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba!” (pg. 42).  This “confess or die” mindset is one of the central ironies of the play.  The whole purpose of a trial is to hear both sides of the story before a verdict is reached.  In telling people they must confess to their crimes or be hanged, the officials show that they have already decided the person is guilty no matter what evidence is provided in their defense.

In Act 2, John Proctor’s guilt over his affair with Abigail is demonstrated through an ironic exchange with Reverend Hale. When Hale asks him to recite his commandments, the only one he forgets is adultery.  This is also the commandment that he has violated most explicitly , so you’d think it would be the first one to spring to mind.  The fact that he forgets only this commandment shows that he is trying extremely hard to repress his guilt.

This act also sees the irony of Hale discussing the “powers of the dark” that are attacking Salem (pg. 61).  This is irony of the same type that I discussed in the overview of this theme.  Hale doesn’t realize that his own fears and suspicions are the real powers of the dark.   Salem is under attack from the hysteria that is encouraged by the same people who seek to keep imaginary supernatural demons at bay.

In Act 3, Hale continues to make ironic statements about the existence of concrete proof for the accusations of witchcraft.  While touting his holy credentials, he claims that he “dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of my conscience may doubt it” (pg. 91).  This “immaculate proof” that has led him to sign numerous death warrants is nothing but the fabrications of teenage girls and other townspeople seeking petty revenge.  These types of statements made by Hale earlier in the play become even more ironic in Act 4 when he realizes he made a horrible mistake by trusting the “evidence” that was presented to him.

Abigail’s presence is always rife with irony in The Crucible , as she constantly chastises others for sins she herself has committed.  When she is brought in for questioning and claims to see Mary’s familiar spirit, she says “Envy is a deadly sin, Mary.” Abigail herself has acted out of envy for the entire play.  Her jealousy of Elizabeth Proctor’s position as John’s wife has led her to attempted murder, first by the charm in the woods and now by accusing Elizabeth of witchcraft. 

Elizabeth is a victim of cruel irony in this Act when she is summoned to testify on the reasons why she dismissed Abigail from her household.  John has already confessed that the affair was the reason for Abigail’s dismissal.  John tells the judge to summon Elizabeth to back him up because he knows she always tells the truth.  Ironically, though she is normally honest to a fault, in this situation Elizabeth decides to lie to preserve John’s reputation, not knowing he has already confessed.  This well-intentioned mistake seals both of their fates. 

Act 4 is Danforth’s turn to shine in the irony department.  He is appalled by Elizabeth’s lack of emotion when he asks her to help the court get a confession out of her husband (pg. 123).  This attitude comes from a man who has shown no remorse for condemning people to death throughout the play.  He refers to John’s refusal to confess as “a calamity,” looking past his own involvement in the larger calamity of the conviction that led John to this point.   

Later in Act 4, Danforth becomes angry at the implication that John’s confession may not be the truth. He insists,  “I am not empowered to trade your life for a lie” (pg. 130). Of course, we know that Danforth has been trading people’s lives for lies this whole time.  He has sentenced people to death based on lies about their dealings in black magic, and he has accepted other false confessions from those who would rather lie than be executed.  To Danforth, anything that doesn’t confirm that he was right all along is a lie. 

Discussion Questions

Here are a few questions related to this theme that you can use to test your grasp of irony and its significance as a theme in The Crucible : 

  • How is Parris’ fate in act 4 ironic when considering his role in the events of the play?
  • Why do certain characters seem to be blind to the irony of their actions (Abigail, Danforth)?
  • Why is hypocrisy so common in repressive communities like Salem?
  • Explain the irony of Hale’s position at the end of the play as compared to his actions at the beginning.   


Theme 2: Hysteria

The thematic significance of hysteria builds quickly as accusations of witchcraft proliferate throughout Salem.  The power of collective hysteria ultimately becomes insurmountable because it grows larger than the influence of the few rational voices in the community. The seeds are planted in Act 1, when Abigail is questioned about her activities in the woods and ends up accusing Tituba of witchcraft to avoid punishment.  The town, already primed with rumors of black magic, is quickly willing to accept that the first few women who are accused are involved in black magic because they’re beggars and slaves.  No one considers that the accusers are lying, partially because they’re seen as innocent children and partially because many “witches” confess to avoid the death penalty.

Armed with the false proof of these coerced confessions, the court officials aggressively persecute anyone who is accused.  Hysteria blinds the people of Salem to reason as they become convinced that there is a grand Satanic plot brewing in town, and they must not hesitate to condemn anyone who could be involved.   This is a lesson in how fear can twist perceptions of reality even for those who consider themselves reasonable under normal circumstances.   

Even before Abigail makes accusations, rumors of witchcraft have morphed into accepted truths in the minds of the more superstitious members of the community.   Ann Putnam jumps at any opportunity to blame supernatural forces for the deaths of her children.  Ann’s extreme conclusions are gradually accepted because rational people are too afraid to challenge the consensus and risk bringing accusations upon themselves.  Hale’s involvement is taken to mean that there must be a supernatural element to Betty’s illness.  Rational explanations are ground up by the drama of the rumor mill, and people see only what they want to see (whatever keeps them in the good graces of society and  makes them feel the best about themselves ) in situations that don't appear to have easy explanations.

The madness begins in earnest with Abigail’s claim that Tituba and Ruth were conjuring spirits in the woods.  Parris is extremely dismayed by this revelation because of the damage it will do to his reputation.  Thomas Putnam tells him to “Wait for no one to charge you - declare it yourself.”  Parris must rush to be the first accuser so he can place himself beyond reproach. It's a toxic strategy that causes panic to spread quickly and fear for one’s life to take the place of rationality.  Tituba is pressured to confess and name the names of other “witches” to avoid execution, which leads to Abigail and Betty’s accusations, now validated by a coerced confession.  This vicious cycle continues to claim the lives of more and more people as the play progresses.

By Act 2, there are nearly 40 people in jail accused of witchcraft.  Many people confess when threatened with execution, and this only heightens the paranoid atmosphere.  The authorities ignore any inconvenient logical objections to the proceedings because they, too, are swept up in the madness. The hysterical atmosphere and the dramatic performances of some of the accusers cause people to believe they have seen genuine proof of witchcraft.  Each new false confession is thrown onto the pile of “evidence” of a grand Satanic plot, and as the pile grows larger, the hysteria surrounding it is fed generously.

This hysteria-based “evidence” of witchcraft includes the discovery of the poppet in the Proctor household with a needle in it.  Elizabeth's side of the story is disregarded because Abigail’s testimony is far more dramatic.  "She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris's house tonight, and without word nor warnin' she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to hear. And he goes to save her, and, stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out." (Cheever pg. 71). The idea that a witch's familiar spirit is capable of stabbing people is too scary for the superstitious and now hysterical people of Salem to give Elizabeth the benefit of the doubt. No one even considers Mary's statement about sticking the needle in herself. In this environment, whoever yells the loudest seems to get the most credibility.

The depths of the hysteria that has gripped Salem are revealed in Act 3 when John finally confronts the court. Danforth makes a shocking argument defending the way the trials have been conducted, insisting that only the victim’s testimony can serve as reliable evidence in this type of trial.   He is completely oblivious to the fact that the “victims” might be lying.  The court refuses to challenge anyone who claims to have been afflicted. 

When the petition testifying to the good character of the accused women is presented, the reaction from Danforth, Hathorne, and Parris is to arrest the people who signed it rather than considering that this might indicate that the women are innocent.   Danforth is convinced that “there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!” and anyone who doubts the decisions of the court is potentially involved.  They so fear the devilish consequences of challenging the accusers that they’re willing to take them at their word and ignore any defenses the accused have to offer.  Nowhere is there any consideration of ulterior motives.  

The power of mass hysteria is further revealed when Mary is unable to faint outside of a charged courtroom environment.  She believed she had seen spirits earlier because she was caught up in the delusions of those around her.  Abigail distracts the judges from any rational investigation in this act by playing into this hysteria.  Danforth, who has the most authority, is also the most sold on her act, and it only takes a few screams to persuade him that he’s in the presence of witchcraft.  This leads to Mary’s hysterical accusation of Proctor after she finds herself targeted by the other girls and about to be consumed by the hysteria herself if she doesn’t contribute to it. 

Danforth continues to demonstrate the effects of hysteria in act 4 even after things have died down a bit in Salem and there have been rumblings of discontent about the court’s actions.  As John gives his confession, Danforth says to Rebecca Nurse “Now, woman, you surely see it profit nothin’ to keep this conspiracy any further. Will you confess yourself with him?” (pg. 129)  He is still convinced that all the prisoners are guilty and is determined to force them to admit their guilt. 

Danforth also becomes frustrated with Proctor when he won’t name names in his confession : “Mr. Proctor, a score of people have already testified they saw [Rebecca Nurse] with the Devil” (pg. 130).  Danforth insists that John must know more about the Devil's dealings than he has revealed.  Though Rebecca Nurse's involvement has already been corroborated by other confessors, Danforth demands to hear it from John to confirm that John is fully committed to renouncing his supposed ties to Satan.

Here are a few questions about hysteria to consider now that you've read a summary of how this theme was expressed throughout the plot of the play:

  • How does the hysteria in the play get started?
  • What are some of the factors that feed the panic and suspicion in Salem, and why are officials (like Danforth) unable or unwilling to listen to reason?
  • Is there any character besides John Proctor that represents the voice of common sense amidst the madness?
  • Why is Cheever both astonished and afraid when he finds the poppet with the needle in it? Why is everyone so quick to believe Abigail’s story?
  • Danforth explains that witchcraft is an invisible crime and that only the victims are reliable. How does this philosophy perpetuate hysteria?


Theme 3: Reputation

Concern for reputation is a theme that looms large over most of the events in The Crucible.  Though actions are often motivated by fear and desires for power and revenge, they are also propped up by underlying worries about how a loss of reputation will negatively affect characters' lives.   John’s concern for his reputation is strong throughout the play, and his hesitation to reveal Abigail’s true nature is a product of his own fears of being labeled an adulterer. 

Once there have been enough convictions, the reputations of the judges also become factors. They are extremely biased towards believing they have made the correct sentencing decisions in court thus far, so they are reluctant to accept new evidence that may prove them wrong.  The importance placed on reputation helps perpetuate hysteria because it leads to inaction, inflexibility, and, in many cases, active sabotage of the reputations of others for selfish purposes. The overall message is that when a person's actions are driven by desires to preserve favorable public opinion rather than do the morally right thing, there can be extremely dire consequences.

Reverend Parris' concerns about his reputation are immediately evident in Act 1. Parris initially insists that there are “no unnatural causes” for Betty’s illness because he fears that he will lose favor with the townspeople if witchcraft is discovered under his roof.  He questions Abigail aggressively because he’s worried his enemies will learn the full story of what happened in the woods first and use it to discredit him.  Parris is very quick to position himself on the side of the accusers as soon as Abigail throws the first punch, and he immediately threatens violence on Tituba if she doesn't confess (pg. 42).  He appears to have no governing system of morality. His only goal is to get on the good side of the community as a whole, even in the midst of this bout of collective hysteria.  

Abigail also shows concern for her reputation.  She is enraged when Parris questions her suspicious dismissal from the Proctor household.  Abigail insists that she did nothing to deserve it and tries to put all the blame on Elizabeth Proctor.  She says, "My name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled! Goody Proctor is a gossiping liar!" (pg. 12) The fi rst act of The Crucible  clearly establishes the fact that a bad reputation can damage a person’s position in this society severely and irreparably.

In this act, we learn more details about the accused that paint a clearer picture of the influence of reputation and social standing on the patterns of accusations.  Goody Good, an old beggar woman, is one of the first to be named a witch. I t’s easy for more respectable citizens to accept that she’s in league with the Devil because she is an "other" in Salem, just like Tituba.   When Abigail accuses Elizabeth, a respected farmer’s wife, it shows that she is willing to take big risks to remove Elizabeth from the picture.  She’s not a traditionally accepted target like the others (except in her susceptibility as a woman to the misogyny that runs rampant in the play).

In Act 2, the value of reputation in Salem starts to butt heads with the power of hysteria and fear to sway people’s opinions (and vengeance to dictate their actions).  Rebecca Nurse, a woman whose character was previously thought to be unimpeachable, is accused and arrested.  This is taken as evidence that things are really getting out of control ("if Rebecca Nurse be tainted, then nothing's left to stop the whole green world from burning." Hale pg. 67).  People in power continue to believe the accusers out of fear for their own safety, taking the hysteria to a point where no one is above condemnation.

At the end this act, John Proctor delivers a short monologue anticipating the imminent loss of the disguises of propriety worn by himself and other members of the Salem community.  The faces that people present to the public are designed to garner respect in the community, but the witch trials have thrown this system into disarray.   Proctor’s good reputation is almost a burden for him at this point because he knows that he doesn’t deserve it. In a way,   John welcomes the loss of his reputation because he feels so guilty about the disconnect between how he is perceived by others and the sins he has committed. 

John Proctor sabotages his own reputation in Act 3 after realizing it's the only way he can discredit Abigail.  This is a decision with dire consequences in a town where reputation is so important, a fact that contributes to the misunderstanding that follows.  Elizabeth doesn’t realize that John is willing to sacrifice his reputation to save her life.   She continues to act under the assumption that his reputation is of the utmost importance to him, and she does not reveal the affair. This lie essentially condemns both of them.    

Danforth also acts out of concern for his reputations here. He  references the many sentencing decisions he has already made in the trials of the accused. If Danforth accepts Mary’s testimony, it would mean that he wrongly convicted numerous people already. This fact could destroy his credibility , so he is biased towards continuing to trust Abigail.  Danforth has extensive pride in his intelligence and perceptiveness. This makes him particularly averse to accepting that he's been fooled by a teenage girl. 

Though hysteria overpowered the reputations of the accused in the past two acts, in act 4 the sticking power of their original reputations becomes apparent.  John and Rebecca’s solid reputations lead to pushback against their executions even though people were too scared to stand up for them in the midst of the trials.   Parris begs Danforth to postpone their hangings because he fears for his life if the executions proceed as planned.  He says, “I would to God it were not so, Excellency, but these people have great weight yet in the town” (pg. 118).

However, this runs up against Danforth’s desire to preserve his reputation as a strong judge.  He believes that “Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak God’s law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering” (pg. 119).  Danforth’s image is extremely valuable to him, and he refuses to allow Parris’ concerns to disrupt his belief in the validity of his decisions.

In the final events of Act 4, John Proctor has a tough choice to make between losing his dignity and losing his life. The price he has to pay in reputation to save his own life is ultimately too high.  He chooses to die instead of providing a false confession because he doesn’t think life will be worth living after he is so disgraced. As he says,  “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (pg. 133)

Here are a few discussion questions to consider after you've read my summary of how the theme of reputation motivates characters and plot developments in The Crucible :

  • How are characters’ behaviors affected by concern for their reputations? Is reputation more important than truth?
  • Why doesn’t John immediately tell the court that he knows Abigail is faking?
  • How does Parris’ pride prevent him from doing anything to stop the progression of events in the play?
  • Why does Mary Warren warn John about testifying against Abigail? Why does he decide to do so anyways?
  • Why does John decide to ruin his reputation in Act 3 by confessing to the affair?
  • How is the arrest of  Rebecca Nurse a sign that the hysteria in Salem has gotten out of control?
  • How does reputation influence who is first accused of witchcraft?


Theme #4: Power and Authority

The desire to preserve and gain power pervades  The Crucible as the witch trials lead to dramatic changes in which characters hold the greatest control over the course of events.  Abigail’s power skyrockets as the hysteria grows more severe.  Where before she was just an orphaned teenager, now, in the midst of the trials, she becomes the main witness to the inner workings of a Satanic plot.  She has the power to utterly destroy people’s lives with a single accusation because she is seen as a victim and a savior.

The main pillars of traditional power are represented by the law and the church.  These two institutions fuse together in The Crucible to actively encourage accusers and discourage rational explanations of events. The girls are essentially given permission by authority figures to continue their act because they are made to feel special and important for their participation.  The people in charge are so eager to hold onto their power that if anyone disagrees with them in the way the trials are conducted, it is taken as a personal affront and challenge to their authority. Danforth, Hathorne, and Parris become even more rigid in their views when they feel they are under attack.  

As mentioned in the overview, religion holds significant power over the people of Salem.  Reverend Parris is in a position of power as the town's spiritual leader, but he is insecure about his authority.   He believes there is a group of people in town determined to remove him from this position, and he will say and do whatever it takes to retain control.   This causes problems down the line as Parris allows his paranoia about losing his position to translate into enthusiasm for the witch hunt. 

Abigail, on the other hand, faces an uphill battle towards more power over her situation.  She is clearly outspoken and dominant, but her initial position in society is one of very little influence and authority.  One path to higher standing and greater control would be in becoming John Proctor’s wife.  When she can’t get John to abandon Elizabeth for her, she decides to take matters into her own hands and gain control through manipulating the fears of others. 

Abigail accuses Tituba first because Tituba is the one person below her on the ladder of power, so she makes an easy scapegoat. If Tituba was permitted to explain what really happened, the ensuing tragedy might have been prevented.  No one will listen to Tituba until she agrees to confirm the version of events that the people in traditional positions of authority have already decided is true, a pattern which continues throughout the play.   Tituba is forced to accept her role as a pawn for those with greater authority and a stepping stone for Abigail’s ascent to power.

By Act 2, there have been notable changes in the power structure in Salem as a result of the ongoing trials.  Mary Warren’s sense of self-importance has increased as a result of the perceived value of her participation in court.   Elizabeth notes that Mary's demeanor is now like that of “the daughter of a prince” (pg. 50).  This new power is exciting and very dangerous because it encourages the girls to make additional accusations in order to preserve their value in the eyes of the court. 

Abigail, in particular, has quickly risen from a nobody to one of the most influential people in Salem.  Abigail’s low status and perceived innocence under normal circumstances allow her to claim even greater power in her current situation.  No one thinks a teenage orphan girl is capable of such extensive deception (or delusion), so she is consistently trusted.  In one of the most well-known quotes in the play, John Proctor angrily insists that “the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom” (pg. 73), meaning the girls are testing out the extent of the chaos they can create with their newfound power.

In Act 3, Abigail’s power in the courthouse is on display.  She openly threatens Danforth for even entertaining Mary and John's accusations of fraud against her. Though Danforth is the most powerful official figure in court, Abigail manipulates him easily with her performance as a victim of witchcraft. He's already accepted her testimony as evidence, so he is happy for any excuse to believe her over John and Mary. John finally comes to the realization that Mary's truthful testimony cannot compete with the hysteria that has taken hold of the court.  The petition he presents to Danforth is used as a weapon against the signers rather than a proof of the innocence of Elizabeth, Martha, and Rebecca. Abigail's version of events is held to be true even after John confesses to their affair in a final effort to discredit her.  Logic has no power to combat paranoia and superstition even when the claims of the girls are clearly fraudulent.  John Proctor surrenders his agency at the end of Act 3 in despair at the determination of the court to pursue the accusations of witchcraft and ignore all evidence of their falsehood.

By Act 4, many of the power structures that were firmly in place earlier in the play have disintegrated.  Reverend Parris has fallen from his position of authority as a result of the outcomes of the trials.   He is weak and vulnerable after Abigail's theft of his life's savings, and he’s even facing death threats from the townspeople as a result of John and Rebecca's imminent executions.  In Act 1 he jumped on board with the hysteria to preserve his power, but he ended up losing what little authority he had in the first place (and, according to Miller's afterward, was voted out of office soon after the end of the play). 

The prisoners have lost all faith in earthly authority figures and look towards the judgment of God.  The only power they have left is in refusing to confess and preserving their integrity. I n steadfastly refusing to confess, Rebecca Nurse holds onto a great deal of power.   The judges cannot force her to commit herself to a lie, and her martyrdom severely damages their legitimacy and favor amongst the townspeople.

Here are some discussion questions to consider after reading about the thematic role of the concepts of power and authority in the events of the play:

  • How do the witch trials empower individuals who were previously powerless?
  • How does Reverend Hale make Tituba feel important?
  • Compare and contrast three authority figures in this drama: Hale, Danforth, and Parris. What motivates their attitudes and responses toward the witch trials?
  • What makes Danforth so unwilling to consider that the girls could be pretending?
  • Why does Mary Warren behave differently when she becomes involved in the trials?  
  • How do the actions of authority figures encourage the girls to continue their accusations and even genuinely believe the lies they’re telling?


A Quick Look at Some Other The Crucible  Themes 

These are themes that could be considered subsets of the topics detailed in the previous sections, but there's also room to discuss them as topics in their own right. I'll give a short summary of how each plays a role in the events of The Crucible .

The theme of guilt is one that is deeply relevant to John Proctor's character development throughout the play. John feels incredibly ashamed of his affair with Abigail, so he tries to bury it and pretend it never happened. His guilt leads to great tension in interactions with Elizabeth because he projects his feelings onto her, accusing her of being judgmental and dwelling on his mistakes. In reality, he is constantly judging himself, and this leads to outbursts of anger against others who remind him of what he did (he already feels guilty enough!). Hale also contends with his guilt in act 4 for his role in condemning the accused witches , who he now believes are innocent.

There's a message here about the choices we have in dealing with guilt. John attempts to crush his guilt instead of facing it, which only ends up making it an even more destructive factor in his life. Hale tries to combat his guilt by persuading the prisoners to confess, refusing to accept that the damage has already been done. Both Hale and Proctor don't want to live with the consequences of their mistakes, so they try to ignore or undo their past actions. 

Misogyny and Portrayal of Women 

Miller's portrayal of women in The Crucible is a much-discussed topic. The attitudes towards women in the 1950s, when the play was written, are evident in the roles they're given. The most substantial female character is Abigail, who is portrayed as a devious and highly sexualized young woman. She is cast as a villain. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, we have Rebecca Nurse. She is a sensible, saintly old woman who chooses to martyr herself rather than lie and confess to witchcraft. The other two main female characters, Elizabeth and Mary Warren, are somewhat bland. Elizabeth is defined by her relationship to John, and Mary is pushed around by other characters (mostly men) throughout the play. The Crucible presents a view of women that essentially reduces them to caricatures of human beings that are defined by their roles as mothers, wives, and servants to men . Abigail, the one character who breaks from this mold slightly, is portrayed extremely unsympathetically despite the fact that the power dynamic between her and John makes him far more culpable in their illicit relationship.   

Deception is a major driving force in  The Crucible . This includes not only accusatory lies about the involvement of others in witchcraft but also the lies that people consistently tell about their own virtuousness and purity in such a repressive society. The turmoil in Salem is propelled forward by desires for revenge and power that have been simmering beneath the town's placid exterior.  There is a culture of keeping up appearances already in place, which makes it natural for people to lie about witnessing their neighbors partaking in Satanic rituals when the opportunity arises (especially if it means insulating themselves from similar accusations and even achieving personal gain). The Crucible provides an example of how convenient lies can build on one another to create a universally accepted truth even in the absence of any real evidence. 


How to Write About  The Crucible  Themes

It's one thing to understand the major themes in The Crucible , and it's another thing completely to write about them yourself. Essay prompts will ask about these themes in a variety of different ways. Some will be very direct. An example would be something like:

" How are themes like hysteria, hunger for power, reputation, or any of a number of others functional in the drama? Choose a single character and discuss how this person embodies one of the themes. How is Miller’s underlying message revealed in one of these themes and through the character?"  

In a case like this, you'd be writing directly about a specific theme in connection to one of the characters. Essay questions that ask about themes in this straightforward way can be tricky because there's a temptation to speak in vague terms about the theme's significance. Always include specific details, including direct quotes, to support your argument about how the theme is expressed in the play.  

Other essay questions may not ask you directly about the themes listed in this article, but that doesn't mean that the themes are irrelevant to your writing. Here's another example of a potential essay question for The Crucible that's less explicit in its request for you to discuss themes of the play:  

" Most of the main characters in the play have personal flaws and either contribute to or end up in tragedy. Explain who you believe is the central tragic character in the play. What are their strengths and personal flaws? How does the central tragic character change throughout the play, and how does this relate to the play's title? How do outside forces contribute to the character's flaws and eventual downfall?"  

In this case, you're asked to discuss the concept of a tragic character, explaining who fits that mold in The Crucible and why. There are numerous connections between the flaws of individual characters and the overarching themes of the play that could be brought into this discussion. This is especially true with the reputation and hysteria themes. If you argued that John Proctor was the central tragic character, you could say that his flaws were an excessive concern for his reputation and overconfidence in the power of reason to overcome hysteria. Both flaws led him to delay telling the truth about Abigail's fraudulent claims and their previous relationship, thus dooming himself and many others to death or imprisonment. Even with prompts that ask you to discuss a specific character or plot point, you can find ways to connect your answer to major themes. These connections will bolster your responses by positioning them in relation to the most important concepts discussed throughout the play.    

What's Next? 

Now that you've read about the most important themes in The Crucible , check out our  list of every single character in the play , including brief analyses of their relationships and motivations. 

You can also read my full summary of The Crucible here for a review of exactly what happens in the plot in each act.

The Crucible is commonly viewed as an allegorical representation of the communist "witch hunts" conducted in the 1950s. Take a look at this article for details on the history and thematic parallels behind this connection . 

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Essays About The Crucible: 10 Essay Questions for Students

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is one of the most-studied plays in American history. What are some of the top essays about The Crucible that people can write?

The Crucible , by Arthur Miller, is a play that focuses on The Salem Witch Trials. This is one of the most studied times in American history when people could be put on trial and brutally executed just for being suspected of being a witch. The primary instigator was Elizabeth Proctor, who was just 17 years old and started falsely accusing people of being a witch. The practice spread to children, such as Abigail Williams, and even men, such as John Proctor, were accused of being a witch. 

In the 15 months following the first accusation, 20 people were executed. The Crucible focuses on how the events of the witch trials unfolded. Take a look at a few possible essay topics that stem from the play.

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers !

1. Who Is the Most Heroic Character in The Crucible?

2. what are the different types of judgment that take place in ‘the crucible’, 3. why is ‘the crucible’ considered to be timeless, 4. how does arthur miller explore mass hysteria through the lens of salem and his characters, 5. analyze the factors contributing to salem’s downfall and how they relate to the main theme of the crucible, 6. what changes does reverand hale go through during ‘the crucible’, 7. why do people accuse those who are different, and why aren’t they challenged, 8. the paper makes a consistent appearance throughout the play; what does it mean, 9. what is a crucible, and what is the meaning of the play’s title, 10. what issues present in “the crucible” do we still face today.

Even though you can write about many characters and describe why they are heroic, the most heroic character is John Proctor. The people of Salem widely respect him because of his independence. He also has a “sharp and biting way with hypocrites,” always sticking to his virtues.

A few points to touch on in this essay include:

  • He is the main source of social authority in the town, and he is directly tied to the leaders of the Puritan Church. 
  • He is also a deeply flawed person, as he is shown to be adulterous throughout the play and crosses the church more than once.
  • He struggles with a deep moral conflict, growing throughout the play. 

Because of the growth he experiences during the story and the character traits he possesses, he is the most heroic character in the story.

It is relatively easy to look at the trials in The Salem Witch Trials and see them as a “Kangaroo Court,” where those accused don’t have a fair trial. At the same time, it is helpful to look at the different types of judgment that occur in the play. A few possible points to mention include:

  • There is an element of legal judgment in the play, but it is mostly superficial. Danforth is responsible for legal judgment, but this is natural justice because of its dogmatic focus on reputation. 
  • There is also an element of personal judgment, particularly when Proctor believes himself to be a “sinner” that has gone against the morals he holds himself to. 
  • Finally, there is also spiritual judgment, as shown when Elizabeth assures Proctor that there is “no higher judge under the heaven.” The town is also fearful of God’s judgment throughout the play, contributing to mass hysteria.

The essay can look at these different types of judgment and how they impact the town during the play. 

A lot of people describe the play as a timeless one. The play is still relevant today, even though it focuses on events over 300 years ago. An interesting essay would look at why the play is still relevant today. Some of the reasons include:

  • Mass hysteria can still happen today, and it might be worth looking at a few recent examples.
  • Dogmatic religious persecution is still a very big problem in certain parts of the world, and a strong essay could highlight a few examples.
  • A lot of people are still accused of crimes without any evidence, and the court of public opinion might find them guilty before a real trial has taken place.

These topics are so deep that it is possible to write a full essay on each of the individual points above, drawing parallels between them and the play. 

Many people say that The Crucible is the perfect example of just how badly instances of mass hysteria can unfold. Mass hysteria is arguably the most dominant theme of the play, as the people of Salem are engulfed by worries related to witchcraft and accusations of people worshipping the devil. 

It could be helpful to write an essay on how mass hysteria developed and evolved during the play. Some of the key points to note include:

  • People who are consumed by mass hysteria are unable to think rationally.
  • One rumor that Abigail creates leads to dozens of people being incarcerated in just a matter of days, despite the accusations being unproven.
  • The effects of mass incarceration directly influence a very repressive society.
  • Many people feel the need to join the repressive crowd because they want to be seen as religious.

Finally, the essay can also touch on how mass hysteria impacted not only those people who were accused but also those making the accusations. Then, the essay can discuss what finally brought these events to an end. 

Several factors contribute to the downfall of Ceylon and the events that unfold in The Crucible. A few examples include:

  • Samuel Parris, Annie Putnam, and even Judge Danforth struggled with the living conditions of Salem, which caused people not to think straight. He rendered them susceptible to anyone offering the slightest explanation regarding the adverse living conditions.
  • The rigid, religious, dogmatic society contributed to easy accusations, with people eager for someone to blame for the hard times.
  • Family feuds also contributed to the events of The Crucible , causing the parents to believe the haphazard lies of their children.

Ultimately, these factors can be discussed in an essay on The Crucible. They directly feed into the main theme of mass hysteria stemming from religious dogmatism.

In the play The Crucible , Reverend Hale is one of the most important characters. He initially supported The Salem Witch Trials, but then he changed his mind. He even published a harsh criticism of the trials in the town of Salem.

Some of the key points to note include:

  • He initially supported the trials, even saying, “ Before the Laws of God, we are as swine !”
  • He is a perfect example of how a powerful religious figure can directly lead to mass hysteria.
  • He eventually changes his mind when he loses faith in the court, seeing how immoral it is.

Reverend Hale undergoes one of the most dramatic transformations as the play unfolds. It is worth taking a closer look at his initial position, his final position, and the impact of his transformation on his life and the town. 

It might also be helpful to look at some of the biggest reasons people accuse those different from them. A few points to include in the essay might be:

  • People tend to accuse those who are different because they are scared of them. They don’t know what to expect, and keeping them down might be the easiest way to allay their fears.
  • People might also accuse those different from them because they see an easy target. They feel like they can elevate their social standing by taking advantage of easy prey.
  • Finally, people might somehow accuse those different from them because they genuinely believe them to be “lesser” people. It might be helpful to draw a few parallels between the play and history.

It is also important to highlight why these accusations go unchallenged. Do they want a side with the person making the accusation? Or do they want to side with the person being accused? Some people try to ride the middle, not saying anything at all.

Ultimately, they agree with the person accusing by not saying anything because they are not challenging an accusation, even if it is without evidence. This could be an interesting topic to explore, and there are plenty of parallels between this topic and the play. 

In The Crucible , the paper shows up again and again. In other works of literature, it is commonly associated with truth and knowledge. After all, it is how events are recorded. This play is more closely associated with individualism and mortality. Some of the points to note include:

  • The paper shows up in the play as the judicial list naming the people who have been condemned for witchcraft, demonstrating moral issues.
  • Then, the paper shows up again, outlining the crimes Proctor is accused of, showing issues related to morality and individualism.
  • The paper also shows up again when Proctor refuses to sign his testimony or have his false confession recorded with his signature on it or “posted on the church door,” alluding to morality and individualism.

These are just a few of the biggest ways that paper stands for morality and individualism. Of course, there are several other possibilities, and a strong essay would back up any claim with evidence from the play. 

Essays About The Crucible: What is a crucible, and what is the meaning of the play’s title?

Even though The Crucible focuses on The Salem Witch Trials, it is helpful to take a step back and think about why the play is named for a crucible. A crucible is a metal container that can melt substances when exposed to high temperatures. This essay will draw a parallel between the purpose of a crucible and its relation to the play.

A few key points to note include:

  • Danforth states, “ we burn a fire in here… ” drawing a parallel between the fires of hell and the court proceedings that are about to unfold.
  • The court’s goal is to separate good from evil, just as a crucible burns up evil inside the container, leaving only the good left.
  • The town goes on a violent witch hunt, accusing people indiscriminately, just as the crucible fires can sometimes burn so hot that nothing is left.

There are plenty of parallels between the name of the play and the container for which it is named. 

Finally, it could also be helpful to write an essay on whether you believe the issues present in the play are still present today. A few points to touch on include:

  • Many people are concerned with developing “fake news” and “alternative facts.” How do you think these issues are similar to the mass hysteria presented in The Crucible? 
  • What role do you think leaders in our government are supposed to play, and how do you see our leaders falling short like those in The Crucible ? 
  • How did the events of The Crucible eventually come to an end, and what do you think our leaders should do today? 

This topic can be very politically charged, but it is still important for people to think about. It can push even professional writers to think critically about what they believe, why they believe it, and what it might mean for the future. 

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing topics !

an essay on the crucible

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an essay on the crucible

The Crucible

Arthur miller, everything you need for every book you read..

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Arthur Miller's The Crucible . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

The Crucible: Introduction

The crucible: plot summary, the crucible: detailed summary & analysis, the crucible: themes, the crucible: quotes, the crucible: characters, the crucible: symbols, the crucible: theme wheel, brief biography of arthur miller.

The Crucible PDF

Historical Context of The Crucible

Other books related to the crucible.

  • Full Title: The Crucible
  • When Written: 1950-52
  • When Published: 1953
  • Literary Period: Realist Drama
  • Genre: Tragic Drama
  • Setting: Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, when it was a Puritan colony
  • Climax: The Crucible has an odd structure, in which each of the four acts ends on a climax. Act I: the girls scream out the names of witches. Act II: Proctor vows he will confront Abigail. Act III: Proctor reveals his adultery with Abigail, and Elizabeth Proctor lies. Act IV: Proctor rips up his confession.
  • Antagonist: Abigail Williams

Extra Credit for The Crucible

The Real Salem Witch Trials. In his depiction of the witch trials, Miller took many major departures from fact. For instance, John Proctor was nearly 60 and Abigail Williams only 11 at the time of the witch trials. Any affair between the two is highly unlikely, to say the least. Miller was always open about the liberties he took with history, saying that he was writing "a fictional story about an important theme."

Some Like it Hot. Arthur Miller was not a star the way writers are stars today. He was much, much bigger than that. After he wrote Death of a Salesman , he was a tremendous national sensation. In fact, he was such a big star that he married Marilyn Monroe. The couple married in 1956, and stayed together until 1961.

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86 The Crucible Essay Topics & Examples

Looking for The Crucible essay examples? Arthur Miller’s play is worth writing about!

🏆 A+ The Crucible Essay Examples

📌 interesting essay topics for the crucible, 🔝 best the crucible essay topics, 👍 most catchy the crucible essay titles, ❓ the crucible essay questions.

The Crucible is a play by famous American playwright Arthur Miller that premiered in 1953 in NYC. It is based on a true story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the late 17th century.

In your The Crucible essay, you might want to make a literary analysis of the play. Another option is to focus on one of the themes or symbols used by Miller. Whether you need to write a short 5-paragraph essay or a longer argumentative paper on the play, this article will be helpful. It contains catchy titles, research questions, and essay topics for The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Free essay examples are added to inspire you even more.

  • Informative Synthesis on Movie: The Crucible The writer of the play version of the film, Arthur Miller, takes charge of the screenplay while Nicholas Hytner is the director.
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller The plays interweaves Christ’s crucifixion with the picture of a bubbling crucible in it a man and a society: the predicament of arriving to the right choice of morality and the inevitability of attaining redemption […]
  • The Crucible (1996) by Nicholas Hytner Although Miller has never consented to the historical accuracy of the story, most of the events in the story match up with the occurrences in Salem, Massachusetts during the seventeenth century.
  • Analysis of the Movie The Crucible Arthur Miller’s play and movie was a reflection of what used to happen in the United States of America. It was a situation where reason was not used in the judicial system and people were […]
  • “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller: Play Analysis The scenario calls for the need to investigate the villagers on issues pertaining to witchcraft, a take that finds many of them victims of the evil doing ready to be judged. First, the plot of […]
  • The Salem Witch Trials in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller 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 […]
  • Literature as a Protest: The Lottery and The Crucible Thus, in the case of “the lottery” it can be seen that it is a form of protest against the practice of blindly following “tradition” without taking into consideration the full logic of the actions […]
  • “The Crucible” a Play by Arthur Miller In both cases, it can clearly be seen that it is fear that allows unreasonable and unlawful actions to continue under the guise of lawful actions that are for the common good.
  • John Hale’s Image in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller The book is concerned with the topic of witch trials taking place in the city of Salem, the Province of Massachusetts Bay, 1692-1693; it features a number of characters, some of whom depict the real […]
  • Salem’s Puritans in “The Crucible” Play by Arthur Miller Parris is described as a man in his forties and the author adds that there is “very little good to be said for him”. The land is not very fertile and the town is surrounded […]
  • A. Miller’s “The Crucible” Play: Who Is to Blame? The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller in 1953, is a play focusing on the topic of the Salem witch of the last decade of the 1600s in Massachusetts.
  • “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller Answer: Hale comes to Salem with the intention of finding concrete proof of witchcraft and using it to condemn the people guilty of the crime.
  • Arthur Miller: Hypocrisy, Guilt, Authority, and Hysteria in “The Crucible” The cruel persecution of minorities and the interference of the state in the individual’s conscience became the key concerns of Miller’s criticism of this people’s actions and beliefs.
  • “The Crucible” by Arthur Williams John may be considered the protagonist of the play, however, the interrelation of the two main female characters of the play are, certainly, of great use for the development of the action and realization of […]
  • Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Miller’s “The Crucible” The villains in both “Othello” and “The Crucible” are unique in their proficiency in the use of language for manipulating others and their ability to use the current setting for achieving their goals; Abigail is […]
  • Goodness as a Central Theme of “The Crucible” In the play “The Crucible”, Artur Miller raises the topic of Salem witch accusations taking place in Massachusetts during the end of the seventeenth century.
  • The Madness of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Theme of Sacrifice in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller and “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorn
  • The Society and the Individual in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • The Social Breakdown That Allowed the Witch Hunt Paranoia in Salem in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • The Victory of Morality Over Cowardice in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • Values and Morality in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Valuable Reasons of Abigail Williams in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Significance and Role of Abigail Williams and Tituba in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Witch Hearings in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Influence of the McCarthy Hearings of the 1950’s in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Use of Rhetorical Devices to Reveal Negative Correlation Between Power Truth, Justice, and Emotions in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Traits and Characteristics of John Proctor in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Unfair and Unkind Treatment of Women in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • The Internal Battles of Mary Warren, John Proctor and Reverend Hale in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Symbolism of the Crucible as a Test for Salem in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The True Meaning of Tragedy in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Presentation of Abigail Williams in Act I of “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Tragic Fate of John Proctor in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Reasons Why People Stand Up for Justice in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  • The Sinful Confessions in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • The Motivation of Abigail Williams to Protect Her Image and Interest in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Unreasonable Discrimination in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Theme of Justice Versus Retribution and Revenge in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Responibility of the Salem Community for the Tragedy in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • Weakness, Jealousy, and Manipulation in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • Vengeance and Malevolent Intent in a Corrupt World in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Materialistic and Controlling Characteristics of Reverend Parris in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Themes of Fear, Revenge and Greed, and Courage in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Sacrifices and Actions of Abigail for Love in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • What Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” Has to Offer to Modern Readers Globally
  • The Historical Meaning and Universal Themes of the Love Triangle, Mass Hysteria, and the Judicial System in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Salem Witch Trials as an Outlet for Revenge in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • The Three Stages of John Proctor’s Transformation in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Transformation of Abigail Williams in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Themes of Intolerance, Reputation, and Injustice in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Theme of Courage in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller and “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • John Proctor as a Fair and Noble Character in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Strength of Elizabeth as Shown Through Her Trials in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
  • The Key Aspects of a Witch-Hunt in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller and Paradise Lost
  • An Analysis of Social Status as a Significant Theme in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
  • How Does Fear Motivate the Main Characters in “The Crucible”?
  • What Was the Critical and Public Reaction to “The Crucible”?
  • What Is the Main Story of “The Crucible”?
  • What Were the Changes in John Proctor’s Character Throughout the Play “The Crucible”?
  • Why Is “The Crucible” So Famous?
  • How Does Arthur Miller Create Tension in the Trial Scene of “The Crucible”?
  • What Is the True Meaning of “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Miller Present the Character of John Proctor in “The Crucible”?
  • How Does John Proctor Contribute to the Effectiveness of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”?
  • What Are Some Examples of Mob Mentality in “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Miller Create Dramatic Tension in the Four Acts of “The Crucible”?
  • Does John Proctor Die in “The Crucible”?
  • When Did the Witch Trials Take Place in “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Miller Convey His Message Through “The Crucible”?
  • Was Jon Proctor From Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” a Good Man?
  • How Did Arthur Miller Portray the Relationship Between John and Elizabeth Proctor in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller?
  • How Are Women Portrayed in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Arthur Miller Show Abigail’s Character in “The Crucible”?
  • Does Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible” End in Hope?
  • How Easily People Can Be Fooled as Portrayed in Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Miller Present Social Status in “The Crucible”?
  • Why Was John Proctor Convicted of Witchcraft in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”?
  • How Miller Creates Conflict in “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Arthur Miller Explore Social Injustice in His Play “The Crucible”?
  • How Arthur Miller Effectively Illustrates the Strength of John Proctor in His Play “The Crucible”?
  • How Arthur Miller Makes Act Three of “The Crucible” a Dramatic Scene?
  • Why “The Crucible” Remains Important Today?
  • What Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” Has to Offer to Modern Readers Globally?
  • How Does Miller Present the Character of Abigail in “The Crucible”?
  • How Does Miller Use Reverend Hale in “The Crucible”?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2023, December 13). 86 The Crucible Essay Topics & Examples.

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The Crucible Essays

How envy drives unfair judgment: comparing the crucible (drama) and the dressmaker (novel) forest lin 12th grade, the crucible.

In Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" and Rosalie Ham's "The Dressmaker", an unbalanced power distribution stemming from an unjust social hierarchy causes much jealousy displayed amongst the citizens of Salem and Dungatar, influencing their judgements...

The Devil’s Own: Danforth and His Character Transformation in Salem Anonymous 10th Grade

By the time Judge Danforth appears in Act III of The Crucible , the audience has become acquainted with a host of characters, each of which are motivated, in turn, by a desire to better their position, need for attention, saving of reputation, and...

The Universality of Vigilance, Discernment, and Dissent: Analysis of 'The Crucible' and 'Land and Freedom' Sapfira Milman 12th Grade

Political theocracy is an inherently oppressive, autocratic system, rendering individuals ultimately powerless. A composer’s political and personal representation subjectively constructs an audience’s conceptual and contemporary opinion through...

The Salvation of a Name: Analysis of Reputation in 'The Crucible' and 'Molly's Game' Anonymous 10th Grade

“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!...I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (Miller 143)

This quotation is found both in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and in Aaron...

Conformity, Imbalance of Power, and Social Injustice Geoff Cowper-Smith

A "Great Drama" is a play in which an audience can find personal relevance. It is something which an audience can relate to. A great drama should having meaning to audiences for multiple generations. Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" successfully...

Sins and Ambitions Anthony Haddad

"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." - Joseph Conrad

The Salem witchcraft trials illuminate a great human campaign to rid society of the wicked devil and his sinful...

The Stream of Conscience in Arthur Miller's The Crucible Anonymous

In Arthur Miller's powerful stage play The Crucible, written in 1953 as a metaphor for the McCarthy hearings on communism in America, the idea of conscience is greatly emphasized in many of the main characters. Miller himself once said that The...

The Crucible as an Allegory Anonymous

In his classic drama The Crucible, Arthur Miller chronicles the horror of the Salem witch trials, an embarrassing episode of colonial America's history. At first reading, one might only view Miller's work as a vivid account of the tragedy of...

Contemporary Events Leading to The Crucible Lee Wang

When The Crucible opened on January 22, 1953, audiences greeted it with lukewarm applause. Critics did what they do best by berating the new play. What is now arguably the most influential allegorical play on the subject of Communism written...

Society In The Crucible and Death of a Salesman Michael Brooks

Two plays by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, both contend that society is the indifferent, sometimes brutal, force that crushes an individual. Although the plays take place in different time periods, they each convey the force...

The Evolution of Reverend Hale Matt Rigolizzo 11th Grade

How can a trial turn a religious minister into a man separated from a town’s power structure? In The Crucible, Reverend Hale is sent to Salem to deal with an alleged outbreak of witchcraft. At the beginning of the play, Hale is a confidant man,...

Puritans, the Devil, and American Literature Anonymous 11th Grade

“The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving and “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne are both short stories that illustrate Puritan ideas about the place of evil in human nature. Both short stories revolve around a central character...

Rev. Parris: Greed and Lies in The Crucible Anonymous 10th Grade

Human nature has a tendency, a fad if you will, to display traits of selfishness and a "me first, you later" attitude. This sort of thinking often leads people to do unjust or politically incorrect things, and it gets them in trouble with the law,...

Personal Expediency Among the Puritans Chloe Mourad 10th Grade

Within the Puritan society of the seventeenth century, the fear of the Devil fueled the actions of individuals; this idea is reflected in two significant works of literature, A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and The Crucible by Arthur Miller....

Fear is Something to be Feared Serena Huang 10th Grade

Fear is Something to be Feared

The word "fear" can be defined as: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger or pain. In his play The Crucible, Arthur Miller addresses the fear embedded within Puritan society. According to the Public...

The Two Opposing Female Roles in “The Crucible” Sanya Helene Stern 11th Grade

“Does this dress make me look fat?” It’s a common conception; women tell each other to wear black because the contrast is slimming. Politicians run attack ads on components to make themselves look better in comparison. The literary technique of...

A New Perspective on Salem Anonymous College

The name Salem or any mention of the Salem witch trials almost always turns heads, and usually this sudden attention is not due to a reputable history. Most people think of the Salem witch trials and begin to picture an out of control environment....

The Crucible - Pure vs. Tainted Love Anonymous 9th Grade

The concept of redemptive and destructive love is common in all modes of texts, no matter the location or the time period. This is because love itself is timeless; it is a moving force that pushes people to act, an emotion which can cause both...

Hubris vs. Heroism : An Analysis of John Proctor’s shortcomings as Miller’s Tragic Hero Arthur Miller 11th Grade

The famous philosopher Aristotle formally defined the parameters of the tragic hero in his work On Poetics (335 B.C.). Aristotle based his tragic hero model on Oedipus, a king from Greek mythology. He defined the tragic hero as a man of noble...

Ambiguous Political Agendas: Historical Figures in Miller and Atwood Anonymous 12th Grade

Political agendas remain dubious and uncertain, but control is the eventual aim, almost by definition, of political activity. The Crucible by Arthur Miller and Margaret Atwood’s free-verse poem “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing” expose innate...

The Crucible and Year of Wonders Anonymous 12th Grade

Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and Geraldine Brooks’ novel Year of Wonders are both works that explore the treatment of individuals under oppressive theocratic ruling. Both Miller’s and Brooks’ works are aligned with key themes of superstition,...

How the Actions of the Court Amplified Hysteria and Expedited the Trials in The Crucible Anonymous 10th Grade

How is it possible that the actions of a single institution can completely decimate the physical and societal structure of an entire town? In Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, this situation comes to pass in Salem, Massachusetts during the 1690’...

The "Weights" of the World: A Central Motif in 'The Crucible' Evan Kade Bridges 12th Grade

Arthur Miller confronts the “weight of truth," "weight of authority," and the "weight of law" in The Crucible. This play expresses the different complications that come along with having to bear each "weight." Many characters in the play conform...

Compare the ways in which The Crucible and Year of Wonders explore the conflict between appearance and reality. Kulin Gunathilake 12th Grade

Arthur Miller’s allegorical play, The Crucible , illustrates the parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and the HUAC communist crisis, highlighting the injustice of McCarthyism. Alternatively, Geraldine Brooks intertextually takes a cue from the...

an essay on the crucible

Home — Essay Samples — Literature — The Crucible — The Crucible: Exploring Morality, Conscience, and Social Justice


The Crucible: Exploring Morality, Conscience, and Social Justice

  • Categories: Arthur Miller The Crucible

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Words: 767 |

Published: Sep 7, 2023

Words: 767 | Pages: 2 | 4 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, morality vs. social norms, morality as a challenge to unjust laws, morality, social justice, and human rights.

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Related Essays on The Crucible

Authur Miller’s play The Crucible is based in Salem, which is engulfed in the hysteria caused by the accusation of children that many believe have partaken in witchcraft. Throughout The Crucible, John Proctor faces a lot of [...]

In the play The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, a group of teenage girls begin accusing people of witchcraft. Abigail Williams, the girl who is in charge, likes the popularity that she gains from her accusing and she is willing to [...]

The Crucible is a play about vengeance and power. Abigail Williams manipulates an entire town to do her bidding, stemming from her want to save her reputation and to be able to finally have the man she lusts over. Abigail [...]

Echeverria, Javier. 'From Witch Hunt to Genocide: Anthropological Perspectives.' Ethnology, vol. 42, no. 2, 2003, pp. 107-126.Gifford, Adam. 'The Forest of Witchcraft: Mythologies of Witchcraft in the Fifteenth Century.' The [...]

“Does this dress make me look fat?” It’s a common conception; women tell each other to wear black because the contrast is slimming. Politicians run attack ads on components to make themselves look better in comparison. The [...]

The word "fear" can be defined as: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger or pain. In his play The Crucible, Arthur Miller addresses the fear embedded within Puritan society. According to the Public Broadcasting [...]

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an essay on the crucible


Essay on The Crucible

Students are often asked to write an essay on The Crucible in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on The Crucible

The crucible: an overview.

The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller. It is a dramatization of the Salem witch trials that took place in Massachusetts during 1692 and 1693. The play is a critique of McCarthyism, a period of intense anti-communist suspicion in America.

Characters and Plot

The main characters include John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, and Abigail Williams. The plot revolves around false accusations of witchcraft and the resultant hysteria, highlighting the dangers of mass paranoia and public manipulation.

The Crucible explores themes of hysteria, reputation, and integrity. It serves as a warning against mass hysteria and the dangers of false accusations.


The Crucible remains relevant today as it alerts us to the dangers of hysteria, fear, and the abuse of power in society.

250 Words Essay on The Crucible

The crucible: a timeless parable.

Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is a timeless parable that explores the destructive nature of mass hysteria, the fragility of reputation, and the struggle for power. Set in the backdrop of the 1692 Salem witch trials, the play serves as an allegorical critique of McCarthyism.

Mass Hysteria and Fear

Miller illustrates how fear can lead to mass hysteria, causing rational individuals to act irrationally. The Salem community’s fear of witchcraft, fueled by the girls’ accusations, spirals into a destructive frenzy. This mirrors the Red Scare of the 1950s, where fear of communism led to widespread suspicion and paranoia.

Reputation and Integrity

“The Crucible” also explores the significance of reputation and integrity. Characters like John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are willing to sacrifice their lives to maintain their integrity, showcasing the destructive power of false accusations on individuals’ reputations.

Power and Manipulation

The play further delves into the struggle for power. Abigail Williams manipulates the fear of the community to gain power, reflecting how fear can be exploited for personal gain.

In conclusion, “The Crucible” is a profound study of human nature and societal pressures. It provides a stark reminder of the dangers of mass hysteria, the importance of integrity, and the misuse of power, making it a timeless piece of literature.

500 Words Essay on The Crucible

The crucible: a tale of fear and manipulation.

“The Crucible,” a timeless masterpiece by Arthur Miller, is a dramatized and partially fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692/93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government ostracized people for being communists.

Contextualizing McCarthyism in ‘The Crucible’

Miller’s play, written during the height of the Cold War, serves as a critique of the rampant fear that characterized the era. The Salem witch trials, as portrayed in “The Crucible,” mirror the Red Scare’s hysteria, where accusations were often based on suspicion and fear rather than concrete evidence. This parallelism is evident in the character of Abigail Williams, whose unfounded accusations trigger a mass hysteria that leads to the execution of innocent people.

Exploring Themes and Characters

“The Crucible” explores themes of mass hysteria, manipulation, and the destruction that can result from unchecked fear and suspicion. The characters in the play, from the manipulative Abigail Williams to the morally conflicted John Proctor, serve as representations of real individuals swept up in the madness of the McCarthy era.

Abigail, a young woman who manipulates the fear of others for her gain, symbolizes the power of mass hysteria. John Proctor, on the other hand, embodies the struggle of an individual against the pressures of conformity, ultimately choosing to maintain his integrity rather than live a lie.

Power, Morality, and the Individual

“The Crucible” also delves into the dynamics of power, morality, and the individual’s role within society. The play examines how those in power can manipulate fear to control the masses, a theme that resonates with the political climate of the McCarthy era and remains relevant today. Miller presents a society where individual thought is suppressed for the sake of preserving a fragile social order, and where morality is compromised by fear.

Relevance of ‘The Crucible’ Today

Despite being set in a 17th-century Puritan society, “The Crucible” holds a mirror to any society that allows fear and suspicion to override reason. It warns of the danger of allowing hysteria to undermine justice and the potential for authority figures to exploit such situations for their gain.

In conclusion, Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is a timeless exploration of fear, manipulation, and power. It serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the destructive potential of mass hysteria and the importance of individual integrity in the face of societal pressure. As we navigate through our current socio-political climate, “The Crucible” continues to resonate, reminding us of the lessons we must learn from history.

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Essay On The Crucible (20/20)


Resource Description

20/20 Essay

Composers offer insight into human behaviour that provokes audiences to see the world differently

As human beings, we are subjected to diverse experiences and interactions which shape our behaviours in compelling situations. Arthur Miller’s tragic play “The Crucible” explores the trepidation and distrust during the Salem Witch Trials as an allegory for the McCarthy era and the anti-communist Red scare occurring in 1950’s America. Through this text type, Miller highlights the unpredictability of human behaviour when fear becomes the prevailing emotion. This is demonstrated in the characters Reverend Samuel Parris as he fears the effects of a tarnished reputation and Mary Warren who is frightened and powerless to challenge the witch trials. These two characters are utilised within the play to provoke the audience to reevaluate their understanding of fear by exploring and expanding on specific human behaviours.

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