Friday, August 16, 2019

Act I of the Crucible Essay

In reading the overture, before any dialogue takes place, we are given a small glimpse into the world of the Salemites. Miller speaks briefly of the town and the surrounding wilderness. The placement of Salem, surrounded by the impenetrable forest already starts building tension. The simple fact that forest is present prevents escape from Salem and therefore the inhabitants of Salem are unable to physically remove themselves from their problems and conflicts within the community. The forest itself is described as: ‘dark and threatening’, by Miller. This introduces an almost intangible danger and constant threat to the play. This alone will make the Salemites feel trapped; this pressured feeling being reflected throughout the play. More significant is the way in which the forest is said to be: ‘over their shoulders’. This creates a feeling that the inhabitants of Salem are being overshadowed by this great threat. As the play is a battle between light and dark, good and evil, this is particularly meaningful as it shows Salem being overpowered by the darkness. It also adds to the feelings of threat and menace the Salemites feel because it implies an unseen ‘something’ watching them. When viewed in a historical context the forest serves another purpose. At the time of writing McCarthyism was sweeping America. Although more obvious parallels are drawn later in the play I believe the forest represents the looming threat of being accused a communist sympathiser. The audience would empathise with the Salemites through this shared threat; this link would have been used by Miller to give the entire play more impact. Another way in which Miller creates a feeling of tension is through the language used in both stage directions and in the speech of the characters. Miller uses ‘power words’ to create an atmosphere of tension throughout the play. On the first page with speech, page six, words such as: ‘frightened’, ‘trouble’ and ‘fury’. It is evident from the start that Salem is not the perfect pilgrim village it is meant, and used, to be. The fact that something is wrong in this village, wrong enough to make a minister weep, and react with such violence grabs the attention of the audience instantly. The stage directions are particularly telling of the moods of characters. Page seventeen sees Abigail and Proctor alone for the first time and the tension between them is clearly visible. For example ‘Abigail has stood as though on tiptoe, absorbing his presence’, when someone is on tiptoe their entire body goes tense as though anticipating something. This may be a very literal way of showing us tension between Proctor and Abigail. Later, on the same page, Abigail ‘springs into his path’. Again the word spring suggests she has been coiled, tense, awaiting his movement and it is this anticipation that Miller uses to great effect when showing us chemistry between two characters. Of all things, perhaps the fear of the unknown is the most potent. Miller uses this from the start and builds tension around the fact that the audience has as little or less information about the preceding events as the characters. As both the audience and characters are apparently in the dark about events surrounding Betty’s condition there is again a link draw up between the two, this is used to the same effect as the McCarthyism link. Speech patterns also show the stress of the characters involved. For example, most characters start to shorten their words and speak in a far more rigid fashion than usual when feeling threatened or angry. These monosyllabic phrases litter the play and show the audience the rising conflicts in the community. On page twenty-six this is especially apparent. ‘He had no right to sell it’, says Putnam to Proctor. All the words in this sentence are monosyllabic, sharp and to the point. It is these changes that show the audience how the characters are really feeling. Miller uses these phrases to both show tension and to create it between characters throughout the play. Repetition plays an immense part in ‘The Crucible’. Specific words such as ‘evil’, ‘unnatural’ and most obviously ‘Devil’ are repeated to the point where they are appearing almost every page. Only Proctor and Paris seem set against the idea of supernatural tampering and even when the village is faced with a mass of evidence which supports more mundane explanations of events the cries of witchcraft are still as loud. It appears as if the Salemites want to believe Lucifer himself is threatening them. There is probably a lot of truth in that statement. The Salemites had fled England but a few generations ago and had done so to avoid persecution because of their beliefs. Now the Salemites are trapped and alone. It is ironic perhaps that their flight to freedom has in reality increased their isolation. Now they have no one to fight either. They were truly alone; perhaps the manic belief in Lucifer’s conquest of Salem was a release, an enemy against which they could fight the good fight. Without the unconverted heathens England offered it what was left but fighting the Devil himself or looking to your neighbour for anything that could be seen as an unholy blemish? The Salemites belief in the Devils power in Salem may have been started by the girls but was carried onwards and taken higher by almost all of the inhabitants of Salem, possibly because they wanted to believe in the corruption of their village. This scenario, as presented by Miller in Act I of ‘The Crucible’ is at the core of all tension throughout the play. Miller makes us see how incredibly dangerous society can be when in the grip of hysteria, the audience of then would have known all too well. Through uses of different devices Miller feeds and augments the underlying tension at key moments until we realise that some dreadful act must take place before the village will realises what it has done. What action could be interpreted as the Devil’s work in a society gone mad? As we see from Goody Nurses and Proctors hanging, anything. Act i of the crucible? Essay â€Å"In what important ways does Miller prepare us for the hysteria and the accusations of the witch-hunts in Act I of The Crucible? † In The Crucible, it was important for Miller to fully show that the witch-hunts in Salem were not some unforeseen, unpredictable chain of events, but the result of many different, precisely added elements. He, therefore, had to display to the inevitability of such events by revealing the true nature of the Salem’s society: unstable and extremely volatile. This instability among the people of Salem, stems mainly from their own insecurities. Any person heard to make a statement that is vaguely accusative is counter-attacked with a provocative statement far exceeding that of the first. Such an incident occurs when Proctor identifies Putnam’s support for the system of voting by acreage by saying Putnam â€Å"cannot command Mr Parris† because the society â€Å"votes by name†¦ not by acreage. † He says Putnam is arrogant in thinking that because he owns more land than Parris, he has the right to order him; the belief being that he is autocratic. Putnam, taking offence, responds by accusing Proctor of two other things. By stating that he didn’t â€Å"think [he] saw [Proctor] at the Sabbath meeting since the snow flew† he is questioning Proctor’s religious devotion using inflammatory language, which is a serious accusation in a theocracy like Salem. He is also saying that the idea of â€Å"one man: one vote† is void for Proctor because he doesn’t take the interest in the society that one man should. From a single remark by Proctor, two, far greater reactions were induced in Putnam. The result is an almost exponential escalation of emotions. This constant attacking and counter-attacking makes the people of Salem very insecure. These insecurities are combated by them putting up emotional barriers to contain their anger, envy or any other emotion that would render them liable to an attack. This is done by creating an external being that is responsible for a person’s inner evil: the Devil. Mrs Putnam displays this when she uses extremely inflammatory language in attempting to resolve Betty and Ruth’s mysterious sleep. She uses explicit imagery of the Devil and describes â€Å"death drivin’ into them, forked and hoofed†. This is an easily defensible point of view, because anyone who challenges it would be â€Å"trucking with the Devil† themselves and become open to attack. Mrs Putnam finds a vent for her anger at â€Å"seven dead in childbirth† with her provocative exclamations such as â€Å"it is surely the stroke of hell upon you† and â€Å"what person murdered my babies? â€Å". By asking that question, she is indirectly accusing anyone in the village. This shows a woman who is desperate to find an explanation for her misfortune and believes she will find it in the people of Salem who have been in contact with the Devil. She uses the Devil as a scapegoat and weights it with all her inner evils. She is, therefore, extremely enthusiastic to find someone who has been in contact with it in order to blame that person. With the entire village thrusting all their troubles and inner evils into a single element, a huge tension is created by the repression of their real emotions that are blamed on the Devil and the innate human desire to find someone else to blame; someone who is responsible for your evil and not, as Rebecca says, to â€Å"rather blame ourselves†. This livid search for a devil and the barriers that are put up by people create people who amalgamate together to form groups with their defining factor often being that of vengeance. Parris believes one of these groups or factions â€Å"is sworn to drive him from† his pulpit. They are not created by people actually admitting themselves, but by other people, usually in opposition, categorising them. Mrs Putnam identifies these groups when she describes the â€Å"wheels within wheels, fires within fires†. The society, therefore, fragments and divides itself. If, as Mrs Putnam shows, the people of Salem cannot accept their own evils and they believe the â€Å"Devil† cannot possibly be within them, that which defines them as a â€Å"good† person must be that which is not the â€Å"Devil†. Therefore, the â€Å"Devil† must, by nature of the society of Salem, be the thing which is diametrically opposed to the person of God and its location must be in a faction or group physically outside their house and spiritually outside their religion. Miller uses these groups to create a self-sustaining repression in Salem. As the people are forced by the factions to repress their feelings and emotions and keep them bottled up, their emotions are heightened by the constant arguments that take place. Act I is an introduction to the society and a period of time in which to show its many tensions. At the end of the act, the tension between all these emotions and the repression is released and Hale says himself that â€Å"it is broken, they are free. † This shows us that the unstable and volatile society is, indeed, at breaking point. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Arthur Miller section.

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