Classic of the Month: The Crucible by Arthur Miller

CrucibleThe Crucible by Arthur Miller

Published by Penguin Classics on March 25, 2003

Genres: Fiction, Classics, Plays, Historical, Drama

Pages: 143 Format: Paperback Source: Library

4/5 Stars

Image and Description Credit: Goodreads

“I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history,” Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts” in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, “Political opposition… is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.”

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible shows the drama of a small community experiencing the unknown/other and reacting intensely before actually understanding what is really going on. It’s about jumping to conclusions, allowing personal opinions to overcome reason, and how things can so easily get out of control. It’s about humanity and are constant folly shown through historical events in Salem, Massachusetts.

When I Discovered This Classic

I first heard about The Crucible back in high school but I don’t think I actually read it in school. Unfortunately I missed out on a lot of classics by not being in AP English.

Why I Chose To Read It

We have this classics wall at my library and I typically pick and choose from there when I’m not sure what to read. I was browsing for a short read and this one grabbed at me. There is no method to my madness.

What Makes It A Classic

The Crucible is a classic for historical and political reasons. It’s based on the events of the Salem Witch Trials with many of the actual people affected appearing within the play. It was also a reflection and critique of the time period it was written, at the height of McCarthyism in the 1950s. It addresses persecution, fear of the unknown, and overzealous action.

What I Thought Of This Classic

I really enjoyed this one. Obviously the historical aspects appeal to me. Now I want to delve deeper into the Salem Witch Trials and the inhabitants of the village where it all began. I also liked the political rhetoric that Miller intended when it was originally released. It still applies today too.

The development of the story and changing thought processes of the participants really made an impact. It would be nice to experience a performance; to uncover more idiosyncrasies of character. While it took me a while to get into this one, The Crucible definitely hits a high mark.

Will It Stay A Classic

I think The Crucible will definitely continue to be a classic. As long as the world continues to repeat the mistakes of the past, we will always need reminders to bring us back from the precipice.

Who I’d Recommend It To

Honestly everyone should read The Crucible or see it performed as intended. This story is an important learning tool and it still resonates today.

Since this year I am partaking in the 2016 Classics Challenge run by Stacey at PrettyBooks, I thought I’d answer the questions she sets out.

So have you had the chance to read The Crucible by Arthur Miller? Did you know that it was in part a response to McCarthyism?  Will we ever learn from our mistakes? Let me know in the comments below.

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