In this post, we explain how to analyse Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" for Module C.
Students often approach Module C in the wrong way.
They focus on the people, events, and politics in their texts, but they don’t examine the way these texts’ ideas have been represented by the composers. In this post, we will present a step-by-step guide for how to analyse a passage from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible for Module C.
First you need to understand the module. Let’s look at the key sections of the Elective outline from the syllabus document:
People and Politics: “[Students] 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.”
This is instructing you to consider how political perspectives are represented. What does it mean to represent something? This is how you present a concept to an audience. In your study of module C, you need to analyse how an individual’s political motivations are represented. You also need to analyse the representation of the impacts of these political acts on individuals and society. The focus, then, is not on “what” is being represented, but on HOW that “what” is represented to the audience.
If you would like more information on Module C, you should read our post on Understanding Module C: Representation and Text.
Now let’s have a look at a passage from The Crucible and analyse it in terms of the module requirements. We’ll look at an extract from Act 3. This is the scene where Proctor and Giles challenge the authority of the court to bring an end to the trials.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible (1953). Act 3, p.100
DANFORTH: In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims – and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confessions. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not?
Here, Danforth presents his belief in witchcraft and the presumed innocence of its victims. Danforth argues against allowing a lawyer to question the witnesses or to defend the accused.
In his monologue, Danforth asserts that witchcraft is “an invisible crime,” one that cannot be seen and, thus, cannot be proven or disproven. He uses this idea to argue that regular court processes should not apply the trials. Miller is conveying to the audience that this is corruption and Danforth is abusing the justice system to protect himself.
Danforth, as the assistant governor of New England and the senior judge in the Salem Witch-Trials has a personal stake in ensuring the trials are not discredited. If the court were found to have executed people based on false statements or improper legal practice Danforth’s authority and reputation would be destroyed.
Now we need to look at how Miller has represented his belief that the theocracy in Salem was corrupt and relied on abusing the legal system.
In this passage, Miller makes uses paradox, legal jargon, and a series of rhetorical questions – hypophora.
Now we need to explain how these techniques work together to produce meaning for us.
Now we must see how these techniques represent these ideas.
Danforth uses legal jargon “ipso facto” – to give legal authority to his flawed central argument about the “invisible crime.” This legal jargon is used to deflect attention away from the paradoxical nature of the crime he is trying.
Judge Danforth then presents a series of rhetorical questions to assert a logical argument. Specifically, he uses hypophora to ask and then answer these questions without allowing his audience to respond or formulate a response. Hypophora is a technique commonly used in sophistry – the practice of manipulating language to win arguments rather than using logic. This suggests that Danforth understands the flaws in his case, and the inherent challenge to his authority.
The combination of these techniques produces a logical paradox that frames the absurdity of the court – it is trying individuals by prosecuting an invisible crime by taking questionable testimony as truth and not allowing the defendants a legal defence.
What does this mean for students of Module C?
Miller has represented Danforth’s argument in a manner that draws out the absurdity of the trials, while also highlighting the danger of such corruption. It is absurd because, per Danforth, as there is no evidence of invisible crimes aside from the accusations of the victims – which will be taken as truth without question – there is no way to challenge the legal authority of the court.
Danforth’s power is absolute. We must remember that the townsfolk of Salem did not elect Danforth as a representative; he is an outsider bought in by Reverend Parris and Reverend Hale. Now that Danforth is in the town and the court has been started there is no way for it to be shut down. This absurdity is not humorous, it is disturbing.
Danforth’s argument that lawyers are unnecessary to prove innocence or guilt subverts the principle of a fair trial by removing any chance to a defence.
Now we know what is being represented – the corruption of Danforth’s court in Salem – and how it is being represented – legal jargon, paradox, hypophora – we need to combine our understanding of the text in a way that satisfies the concerns of the module.
We will use a T.E.E.L structure for our evidence and discussion of it:
The link is particularly important as it connects the technique and thing represented back to the concerns of the module.
Let’s look at a band 6 example of this kind of analysis:
Miller represents the danger of unchecked power by representing the corruption of the court in Salem. Danforth’s assertion that “witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime” is paradoxical. A crime cannot be proven to have occurred if it cannot be seen. Miller is using the accusations of witchcraft in Salem to represent how power can be abused and legal due process subverted. The absurdity in Miller’s representation reflects how one political perspective can be manipulated and used to maintain power in a tyrannical manner.
Want to do next? Now you know how to analyse the text, you need to get to it.
Read through The Crucible again and analyse it for the module.