Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible
Fall is here again, and that means in October, television channels will start playing scary movies and people will pick up novels that tend to chill the spine. Halloween has always intrigued me because I love scary movies and I just enjoy that eerie vibe that is always around during this time of the year. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that is historical based on the Salem Witch trials in 1692. Being a history buff, this story catches my attention and I have always been interested in this part of American history where everyone was superstitious and so quick to accuse another. Starting American History this year and going over the pilgrims and the Salem Witch trials in particular, just gives me that vague feeling of autumn and the things that come with the season.
The meaning of the word “crucible” normally is associated with metallurgy and the type of vessel made. Another meaning is “a severe, searching test or trial”. This is where we get the title of The Crucible because many people were tried for witchcraft but fewer people were hanged. In this play, the first scene starts out by the reader learning about the events that have previously gone on prior to the accusations of witchcraft. A young girl, the niece of Reverend Parris, Abigail Williams and her cousin Betty Parris, and some servant girls, Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren, have been involved in or seen some sort of witchcraft taking place with the family maid, Tituba. We learn later on in act one that Betty and the girls were dancing and there was some kind of charm going on that we perceive as being asked upon Tituba by Abigail. Abigail is a sly young girl, who is very cunning and overall not very nice or well-liked. While she is only seventeen, she tries to seduce John Proctor, a married man, and we later learn she has had an affair with him. In the beginning of act one, Betty Parris is in a coma, not thought to ever wake up. The Reverend goes down to his congregation in the parlor of his house to tell them what has happened, with everyone thinking the whole situation is one of witchcraft. They question Tituba asking if she summoned the Devil and Abigail and Betty admit that they saw many women of the town with the Devil. The accusations and later, deaths, of nineteen men and women come from two little girls.
I think this whole event in history is just fascinating because it was a time when America was still in the stages of foundation and people were getting used to a new life in new settlements. Most of the accusations, historically, were made by poorer girls of society on the wealthy. They took out their anger on them, causing deaths and sadness to the families of the victims. What also surprises me is that the people of Salem, Massachusetts were so quick to judge people from the lies of little children. To me, they should have had the common sense to determine what these girls were saying was a lie, like the boy who cried wolf. However entrancing this story is, it’s always good to remember that it’s not actually a story: it is historical fiction based on something that really happened, which can be shocking and astounding. Learning about history, especially when it comes to the history of your country, can be beneficial when it comes to not making the same mistakes that the people of the past did before us.