Arthur Miller was born in 1915 in the city of New York. During his mid-teen years the depression hit his family extremely hard and forced Miller to leave high school and attempt to find work. Most of the plays that Miller wrote were based on contempory society but from first sight “The Crucible” seems very different. “The Crucible” was used as an oblique comment on society at that time. At that time communists were being tracked down in an attempt to rid of them.
They were made to accomplish a political purity test where their loyalty to America had to be proved. If they failed this test they would have been executed, and this is why Miller wrote about the witch trials of Salem. As Miller himself had communist sympathies, and was himself arrested but later released, he was far too frightened to write directly about how he felt the actions of Joseph McCartney were a disgrace. As the witch trials were very similar he felt it would get his points across.
People who had been seen to have skills in witchcraft were also made to take a test but in this case, to prove their loyalty to god. Failure of this test also led to execution. During the time of the Salem witch trials the people had to fulfil the standards of the Puritan religion. The Puritan religion had very strict rules and if these rules were broken they would be seriously punished, such as being beaten or whipped, or in worst case such as using witchcraft, they would be executed. Only plain clothes could be worn.
For the women this meant bonnets, old maid dresses and aprons. Men wore top hats, black knee length trousers and black jackets. Both sexes were made to wear clothing with long sleeves and long socks. The less flesh that was seen the better as it gave them a purer look. No accessories or make up could be worn. The only social events they were allowed to take place in was visiting church and working. There was no drinking, gambling, theatre or dancing to take part in everyday of the year and Sundays were kept totally free, as it was God’s day.
Very different from modern life! This is why there is such a sombre, miserable atmosphere throughout the play. The strictness of the Puritan religion is mainly seen at the beginning of the play in a speech from Parris to his niece, Abigail. The utter disgust and shame Parris feels about how his daughter and niece were found dancing in the forest is very clear in how he speaks about it. The fact that he calls a simple thing such as dancing a “disruption” shows how strict the Puritan religion is about these activities.
Also, as the community is very close and isolated it is very easy for the knowledge of how Abigail and her friends were caught dancing in the forest to travel around it. These activities were seen as being so obscene that it blackened anybody’s name that took part in it throughout the village! It also blackened the whole households name and this is why Parris feels such worry about how the community will react to him. The religion is why the title, “The Crucible” is so significant.
A crucible is a pot in which metals would be purified. Its basically saying that the whole puritan religion is like a “crucible”, to be in them, no deficiencies are allowed. The girls create many moments of high tension and hysteria throughout the play. The first main moment of tension created by the girls is when their fear of what their punishment will be for dancing in the wood. All the girls are extremely scared but only Mary Warren has the confidence to speak out to Abigail about it.