When you think of a bright and sunny day, what kind of images are put into your head? Maybe you think of a baseball game at the park, or perhaps a relaxing time at the beach? Whatever the case, bright and sunny is usually associated with happy, pleasant thoughts. In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the imagery put into the readers’ heads is far from felicitous. Instead, the setting is during the chaotic Salem witch trials, where we are exposed to dark, dreary times. The mood is depressing, the characters are in panic, and the theme is hysterical but yet intriguing.
Miller does a fantastic job of using the backdrop to cultivate the incredible significance of this period. The story begins in a dismal, mysterious atmosphere. It is described as small bedroom in Samuel Parris’ house, with just a “narrow window” and a candle providing light, along with “air of clean spareness” and exposed roof rafters (I, 3). In addition, Parris is inside that room kneeling alongside a bed, praying for his unconscious daughter to “come back” to consciousness. Miller’s vivid words describe the fact that this is not a time of joy, but a time of despair and mourning.
When Miller describes the room, which “wood colors are raw and unmellowed”, he conveys the message that the room is just as terrible as the situation going on within its walls. The opening premise sets a somber tone for the rest of the story. The story continues to be a subject of controversy, eventually ending up where the main character is put before a court. John Proctor, along with the rest of the people in the courtroom, is subjected to “sunlight pouring through two high windows in the back wall” (III, 83).
The structure of the meeting house is poor, with “Heavy beams jut out, boards of random widths make up the walls” (III, 83). The whole description is depressing, implying that the trials will proceed on as dark and unforgiving; no chance for those prosecuted. This, as well as the piteous accusations going on inside the anteroom, provides the reader with concrete visualizations to picture the affect of what is really going on. Perhaps another stunning effect of the setting is in relation to the characters.
The people in the play seem to relate to the environment they are exposed to. As an example, Judge Hathorne is “a bitter, remorseless” figure who was intent on finding all who stood before him as guilty (III, 85). He presides in a courtroom of mass destruction, both in the sense of the verdicts determining peoples’ fates and the actual state of the building that is falling apart. The surroundings rub off on the judge, causing him to be relentless in his duties. The 17th century’s awful, inexorable witch trials were some of the darkest days of the time.
People were accused for things they had no part of and were put to death anyway, but really its shows that the Puritan community was superstitious, gullible, and really had an aversion to witches. Miller displays the trials in such a matter that it really feels like the reader is in the bedroom or in the courtroom. He forms a picture of a town where all the buildings are creaking and hanging by a thread and where the sun never shines, both literally and figuratively. Arthur Miller’s magnificent talent of creating the setting in a picturesque manner makes all the difference in this book being a very interesting read.