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Crucible Study Guide - Themes, Essay, Characters and Quotes

Updated on April 2, 2015

The Crucible Study Guide and Essay

This page contains a detailed essay about themes in The Crucible (a 1952 play by Arthur Miller) and serves as a great resource for a school assignment. This page also includes a list of the characters, a selection of quotes and a general analysis of The Crucible.

If you have any comments or questions about the themes in The Crucible please leave your feedback at the bottom of this page.

Whether you need help for a school assignment or are simply interested in learning more about The Crucible, this page will prove to be a valuable resource.

The Crucible - Summary

This Crucible Essay

Investigates Themes In The Crucible


Introduction - Crucible Theme Essay

In Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, the Salem witch trials of 1692 are used as a parallel to the persecution faced by Communist supporters during the 1950s.

Miller believed that the singling out of Communists was no different to the witch-hunts in Salem. The themes in this play are still relevant to our world today.

Fear of what we don't understand still creates hysteria among the population, while suppression of free thought continues to be an ethical concern across the world. Reputation also remains an important value to individuals, in particular people in the public's interest.

The Crucible

The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts
The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts
Click the image to see reviews and summaries from people who have bought and read The Crucible from Amazon. These reviews can make great resources for a book report.

Crucible Essay - Fear

How Is Fear Present & Used In The Crucible?

Human society fears what they do not understand. When we observe something as unfamiliar we perceive it as a threat. This is what occurred in Salem, as dozens of people were hanged after being convicted of witchcraft. During Miller's era Americans were persecuted by their own countrymen for believing in Communism. America feared Communism would take over the world just as the inhabitants of Salem thought evil spirits would overwhelm their mind, souls and eventually Salem itself.

Fear can quickly lead to hysteria, paranoia and anxiety, in turn eliminating rational thought. Hysteria is a 'snowball' effect, as it gathers speed it collects more individuals and they begin to feed from each other, only amplifying the hysteria. When Betty wakes up she calls out hysterically "I saw Martha Bellows with the Devil!" Abigail sees this as a chance to escape her punishment for dancing in the woods and joins Betty in accusing townsfolk, "I saw Goody Sibber with the Devil!" The other girls quickly follow in making accusations. Fear and hysteria quickly overruns Salem, people were afraid of witches and being accused as one.

Even today people fear the unknown and hidden nature of terrorists. The media hyped up their power and existence for several months following the Twin Tower attacks, contributing to the hysteria. Just as people in Salem were scared about evil engulfing their community, the world was afraid of terrorist attacks, the governments responded by increasing security and developing anti-terrorist response units, in the hope of reducing hysteria and slowing the 'snowball' effect.

The Crucible Movie

The Crucible Movie
The Crucible Movie

Crucible Essay - Individuality

Characters Of The Crucible With Strong Individuality

While most governments aim to help their citizens and maintain order through ethical means, some maintain order through the suppression of individuality and minority groups, which appears extensively throughout human history. Miller suggests that "there was no room in Salem for individuality," and uses John and Elizabeth Proctor to express this idea. They both voice opinions that go against authority and tradition, which is the essence of free thinking.

Elizabeth calmly speaks against the reality of witches when she is accused of being one, "I say there are none." While John denounces the existence of God after a desperate and passionate dispute with Danforth over the girls' legitimacy, "I Say - God is dead!" Throughout the play John Proctor was pressured to conform to society and drop his attack against the court and the beliefs of the town. Today we are still struggling to find a balance between order and freedom. Minority groups and individuals continue to be persecuted based on religious beliefs and sexual orientation. Dictatorships in particular force citizens to comply with society and prevent them from expressing their thoughts and opinions.

I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another.


Crucible Essay - Reputation

How Reputation Effects People's Actions In The Crucible

Reputation plays a vital role in the motivation of several characters in The Crucible and they base their actions on their desire to protect it. When Abigail is found dancing, Parris instantly worries about his reputation by association and questions her heavily, to which she responds; "my name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled." John Proctor also seeks to protect his reputation. He has the opportunity to put a stop to the girls' accusations, but his desire to uphold his reputation prevents him from testifying against Abigail.

In the end John Proctor is required to make a decision between his name and his life, Proctor decides he would rather die with an honourable name than live with a tainted one, emphasising the value he places on his name. "Because it is my name!... How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" Reputation continues to be an important factor in society today. Celebrities and politicians in particular are concerned about maintaining a positive reputation with the public. At the same time individuals still value their name among friends, family, teammates and co-workers.

The Crucible Poster

The Crucible Poster
The Crucible Poster

Crucible Essay Summary - Conclusion

Comparison: Is The Crucible Still Relevant Today?

The Crucible is still relevant to society fifty years after its conception and over three hundred years after the events in Salem. Miller explores human flaws and the motives behind the behaviour of people in response to the events of Salem in 1692. Salem was just a small community which now can be applied to the whole of society as these human traits still drive us today and will continue to in the future.

The Crucible is an example of how hysteria, the desire to uphold status and suppression of individuality can combine to tear a community apart. We look back to the events of Salem and consider today's society to be more sophisticated. However, we have to ask ourselves, have we actually advanced socially? We are still slaves to our fear, terrorists have become our modern day witches and the suppression of our fellow man continues. Perhaps our world today is no different to the Salem that Miller portrayed.

The Crucible Trailer - (Not Official Trailer)

The Crucible (Movie - DVD)

The Crucible
The Crucible
The Crucible is a popular play by Arthur Miller and now its a movie. If your looking to get the full Crucible experience you can't look past the movie. If you are struggling to get your head around The Crucible for your school assignment then watching the film will help.

The Crucible Characters

The Crucible Characters List

  • John Proctor - A local farmer who is husband to Elizabeth Proctor and has an affair with Abigail.
  • Abigail WIlliams - Reverend Parris's niece. Abigail has a lust for John Proctor. She is smart, cunning and a great liar which she uses to convince the town of Salem.
  • Reverend John Hale - Hale is a young minister who is considered an expert on withcraft, he is called to Sale to help investigate the events in Salem.
  • Elizabeth Proctor - John Proctor's wife.
  • Reverend Parris - The minister of Salem's church. Parris is disliked by many of the townsfolk due to his greed and power-hungry motivated actions.
  • Rebecca Nurse - A highly respected person within Salem, however she is accussed of being a witch due to the panic within Salem.
  • Francis Nurse - Husband to Rebecca Nurse. Francis has a feud with Thomas Putnam ofer land. He is respected among the townsfolk.
  • Judge Danforth - The deputy governor that leads the trials of Salem.
  • Giles Corey - One of the elderly famers in Salem, he is marred to Martha who is accussed of being a witch. Eventually Giles Corey is killed with large stones.
  • Thomas Putnam - Putnam and Francis Nurse do not get along, Putnam uses the withcraft in Salem to purchase land and increase his wealth.
  • Ann Putnam - Ann has given birth to 8 children and has had only 1 survive, she believes it to be because of supernatural causes.
  • Ruth Putnam - The Putnam's only surviving daughter.
  • Tituba - a black slave from Barbados, who performs withcraft at Abigail's and the girl's requests.
  • Betty Parris - Reverend Parris's daughter and friend to Abigail.

Great Crucible Videos on YouTube

Reader Feedback - What Do You Think About The Crucible?

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    • LewesDE profile image


      8 years ago

      Love this lens!

    • Aquavel profile image


      10 years ago

      I agree wholeheartedly when you conclude that society shows us we are still slaves to our fear. This is a perceptive and important artcle/essay on a 67-year-old play that is as poignant and relevant today as it was then. (BTW, Winona Ryder's despiction of Abigail is pure genius!) Starred and favored!

    • Home Interior D profile image

      Home Interior D 

      10 years ago

      Well written and interesting lens. I remember studying this book when I was at school.


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