Struggling with Miller's "The Crucible" Read or Dos and Don'ts to improve your essays.
What are the dos and don’ts of studying The Crucible for Module C?
Module C is the Study of Representation and Text. This Module is concerned with how composers represent ideas in their texts. To get a Band 6 response for Module C you have to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (1953) and connect it to the requirements of the Module. Often students don’t understand how the text relates to the Module; what the concerns of the text are; or what the Module asks them to do.
In this post, we will give an essential overview of Miller’s The Crucible and its themes and then explore how to connect it to Module C with some handy dos and don’ts.
Miller’s four act play is a tragedy that represents the beginning of the Salem Witch-Trials of 1693 and the consequences they had on the town’s community and political structure. All of the characters in the text are historical figures. However, Miller has taken artistic license to combine several historical figures into one of the texts’ characters (for example, there were more many girls in the original trial, but Miller has combined them for dramatic purpose).
The play’s protagonist is John Proctor who attempts to stop the Salem Witch Trials after his wife, Elizabeth is accused of witchcraft by their former maid, Abigail. To complicate matters, Proctor has had an affair with Abigail and he is keeping it a secret to protect his reputation. As the town’s reverend, Parris, and the Deputy Governor of the Province, Danforth, and their allies begin trying townspeople for Witchcraft, Proctor challenges their authority to halt the trials. He fails and is hung.
Central to the narrative is the political structure of the town. Salem was a theocracy – a village that was run as a collective under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Reverend Parris. This means that Parris answered to the provinces governor and judges, including Judge Hathorne and Danforth. Danforth is the most powerful figure in the text.
You must make note of the text’s genre in your responses, this is an important part of the composer’s representation. Miller’s The Crucible is a tragedy set during the Salem Witch-Trials of 1692-93.
Tragedies depict the downfall of the protagonist due to a central flaw, or hamartia, that they possess. Tragedies result in the death of the protagonist, and sometimes others.
In The Crucible, the common flaw is pride (a concern with reputation). For example, many of the characters are overly concerned with their own reputations, or those of their neighbours, leading to the collapse of the Salem community and the deaths of many of its members.
It is important to discuss the text’s form.
The Crucible is a four-act tragedy interspersed with essays that define the setting and characters. These compositional choices shape the meaning that the audience can draw from the text. This means that your study of The Crucible is limited by Miller’s decision to include historical essays as part of the script. This casts a narrow perspective on the text’s action.
Miller uses the essays to carefully shape your perspective of the characters. Some plays leave the characterisation of the characters ambiguous. This allows the actors and directors to develop a particular reading of them and the text (i.e. they can focus on a specific flaw or behaviour). Miller’s use of essays and detailed stage directions demonstrates that he wants to use a very rigid perspective on his characters.
Miller has chosen to represent the historical events of Salem, Massachusetts 1692 and comment on the events of America during the House Un-American Committee Hearings. What does this mean?
The key word that recurs in this Module is “representations.” It is important to be clear that this is not a contextual study, but a study of how the events are represented.
While the event or people being represented is of interest, your key focus needs to be on the process of representation.
This means discussing:
To better understand how to approach the Miller’s representation, let’s examine the key phrases from the People and Politics outline:
|Module Rubric: Module C – Elective 1 People and Politics. (Source: BOSTES)|
|In this elective, students explore and evaluate various representations of people and politics in their prescribed text and other related texts of their own choosing.
They consider the ways in which texts represent individual, shared or competing political perspectives, ideas, events or situations.
Students analyse representations of people’s political motivations and actions, as well as the impact political acts may have on individual lives or society more broadly.
Let’s unpack these concepts:
A good idea is to structure your notes into a table where you can compile these ideas and the evidence you feel supports them:
|Table: Suggested Format for Study Notes|
|Character||Motivation/ Perspective||Example||Technique||Explanation||Connection to Module|
|“If I must answer that, I will leave and I will not come back!
[DANFORTH seems unsteady.]
|Abigail responds to the accusation that she has had an affair with Proctor by refusing to answer Danforth’s question: is this accusation true?
Her imperative Tone is important because she is challenging the power of Danforth, the most important and powerful man in Salem.
The stage direction indicates that she has power over Danforth. Not only has she protected her self-interest, she has manipulated Danforth.
|Miller represents the collapse of the community in Salem by focusing on the inversion of power occurring in the court.
It is ironic that Abigail, a young girl, has the power to manipulate the Deputy Governor of the Province.
You must discuss the various perspectives Miller has depicted and how he was represented them.
To do this:
|Table: Comparison of Characters and Motivations|
|Initially she believes in Abigail’s plan to gain authority and power in the town and assists Abigail to incriminate Elizabeth Proctor.||She undergoes a change of heart and sees that the trials are not harmless “sport” but damaging to individuals and the community. However, her fear of Abigail and the solidarity of the others leads her to recant and incriminate Proctor.|
|Hale considers himself to be a pious man who is destined to root out evil from towns in New England. He truly believes in the crimes he investigates.||Having seen the damage that the Witch-Trials have had on the town by dividing the community he changes his perspective. He urges Proctor to confess on the grounds of saving his life, rather than to act in a moral or Christian manner.|
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