Miller’s characterization brings forth various major themes in the play, which include; that of power and its misuse, deceit and lies, and reputation. These are as highlighted in the paper.
The play revolves around a group of young girls in Salem, caught in their wicked plans to catch men especially the married, are forced to lies that they had been invaded by Satan who forced them to take part in the rights. They are then forced to mention the victims involved.
It turns out that those caught up in the mix include major landowners in their attempt to steal some other people’s land, greedy preachers and a young woman (Abigail) who is infatuated and determined to get a married man. She is also resolute to do away with his guiltless wife.
There follows a seriessubsequent trials in which the people who were innocent were executed, they that were unable to name names tortured and incarcerated. The irony is seen where those who confessed their guilt became freed.
The play reaches its climax in the verge of the trial. In Salem hanging witches was the only means through which community’s purity could be restored. The trials associate social deviants with devil worship thus necessitating the need to eliminate and erase them completely from the society. There is dictatorship in the ruling of the law and this forces people to choose between the options given by the court. This is seen in Act iii, when Danforth says ‘‘a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it.’’
The main character, Proctor had the desire and ability to put to an end the accusations made by the girls, however, he is drawn back by the craving to preserve reputation, and this bars him from giving evidence against Abigail. When the play ends however, Proctor’s wish to maintain his reputable name, leads him in making a heroic choice of not making any false confession. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” he cries in Act IV. He thus ends up dying with integrity.
Misuse of Power
Misuse of power is portrayed through the character of Abigail. Abigail Reverend Parris’s teenage niece, who lives along with Betty Parris’ daughter and Tituba Barbados’s slave, uses her intimidation and Strength in an attempt to break away from ‘the oppressive Puritan society’ as ascertained by Miller. Manipulation and Misuse of power is very rampant in Miller’s novel ‘‘The Crucible.’’ Western Life, during the era of late 16 the century, was very dissimilar from today. According to the puritan religion, children were required to be thankful and maintain their heads low for their sheer existence. This however was not applicable to Abigail; when the story started, she had previously given herself wholly to someone who is married, John Proctor, and for this she has been thrown out Proctor’s house for that. Despite this, Abigail is seen gaining power by persuading and manipulating a large group of girls thus rallying behind her. This group consists of: Mercy Lewis, Susana Walcott, Mary Warren, Betty Parris, and Ruth Putnam.
Witch trial Investigators characters also misuse their power to serve own interests. Abigail begins the hysteria at the time she finds convenient to draw away attention from her sins; she goes ahead and points accusations, as a way of scheming her way to Proctor, at Elizabeth. Through Abigail’s cunning in Act Two, she misuses her power to frame Proctor of witchcraft. In act three she later losses her humanity character by damming Proctor claiming to love him. The attempts of john to expose Abigail fail because she uses her power and turns the whole process around on him, thus succeeding to pack him off to slammer. Abigail continues to ride her trip of power up to the end.
Misuse of power is also evidently shown through the character of Reverend Parris. He is the only authoritative voice known in Salem, a graduate from Harvard College and a Minister. He uses his power as a scholar to manipulate people to believe in what he thinks is right. Through the use of his power he becomes very influential, but later he is replaced by Reverend Hale, who again misuses his power derived from leaning and from books, which are auxiliary supplanted by the courts and the officials. Some individuals are also characterized as misusing power like, Giles Corey and Proctor. Proctor goes ahead and rejects Parris’s preaching; Corey on the other hand manipulates and makes authority (law) work to his advantage as a plaintiff. Disregard against official law was a great offence and one was considered an anarchist. This is evident when Danforth says ‘‘a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it’’ (Act iii.)
Deceit and Lies
Miller’s characterization also develops the theme of deceit and lies. Miller’s characterization in The Crucible portrays many individuals lying to other people or to themselves. For instance, Abigail lies on her capacity to see the spirits, as other girls also do. She claims to have seen the devil. ‘‘..I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book....’’ she says (Act I.)
Proctor on the other hand is deceitful, this is proven from the fact that, he first cheats on his wife with Abigail and secondly he hides it. Proctor character thus develops this theme in the play because from this behavior, we are able to depict deceit and lies as one of the major themes in the play. John Proctor lies to the wife by claiming that he has no feelings at all for Abigail, this was not the case as he did this to gain his wife’s favor and make things appear to be normal. He was very sorry for what he had done, though; he still had feelings for Abigail. Abigail also lays in Act I, when she says she never knew how to lie ‘‘... I never knew the lying lessons, I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men!’’ she says. This is not the truth since most of the time Abigail is portrayed lying to get along with her deeds.
The theme of lying is further shown by the characters of the ministers, the judge and the lieutenant governor. They lie to everybody and to themselves claiming that they are serving the God’s Justice Cause. This is because, you risk being a martyr by saying the truth; you may gain freedom through one’s stand with God by publicly proclaiming not to be a witch and risk being killed.
Characterization also brings in another major theme in the play, which is reputation. Individual characters and reputation in Salem Community dictated largely one’s fate. Through the character, Abigail, a female orphan, suddenly turns out to be one of the most important and influential person in the town. She brings other such (low reputable) girls with her, who would have only opted to labor as housekeepers till their marriage. Similarly Tituba, who belonged to the race considered of the lowest ranks in Salem, realized herself having the ability of deciding the fortune of more powerful individuals than her. This is shown when he accused these people of witchcraft. On the other hand, individuals who had sparkling reputations for example Elizabeth Proctor and Rebecca Nurse had to be dragged through mud and as a result lost all the respect in their situations. Reputation is protected by these characters however when everything breaks loose, an irony is seen between those of low status and those considered to be of high status.
The play acts as a reminder to the readers of a horrible blemish on human being’s history. The themes and characterizations in the play shows that man cannot be perfect, and that people make mistakes. Even with the mistakes, it is still possible to cleanse and purify oneself by being determined to make the wrong thing right. The sufferings befall the victim just as a crucible.