Among the major American playwrights of the 20th century, Arthur Miller was the only one, who paid tribute to the nation’s history. One of his best plays The Crucible is devoted to the infamous Salem process in 1692. The author does not hide his intention to draw an analogy between history and modernity and sought primarily to teach a moral lesson to his contemporaries, living under the yoke of McCarthy reaction. That’s why in this play one can especially clearly hear the voice of the author.
In the light of the basic conflict, particular interest undoubtedly belongs to the image of John Proctor. The extensive author’s remark characterizes him as a straightforward and powerful man, in which the strength of character is combined with hatred for any lie. At the same time, the playwright notes the inner duality Proctor: he has sinned, and not only against the Puritan morality, but also against his own understanding of the debt. Thus, the character of John Proctor becomes the focus of the main conflict lines of the play: it is a struggle between the spirit and the flesh – his passion for Abigail and sense of conjugal duty; unwillingness to obey the dictates – Proctor works on Sundays, considering it more reasonable than spending time in the church; and finally, it is a passionate desire to preserve life and the inability to bring himself to compromise his principles. The point of the highest tension of the play is a scene when his wife Elizabeth Proctor is allowed to visit him on the condition that she would try to persuade her husband to plead guilty. This recognition is very important for judges of Proctor, as it would be not just a victory over an isolated individual, but a confirmation that a person is weak, sinful, and vile, even if the most stable man in the face of death is ready to slander himself.
As in many of other plays, Miller puts his character in a situation of moral choice, where he has nobody to rely on except for himself. Even his wife, Elizabeth, does not feel right to influence his decision. She tells him to do as he thinks is best, to be his own supreme judge. It is important for the author to show his character in an extreme situation, in the face of death, who can find the strength to resist evil, taking over all the burden of responsibility for the decision. Highlighting the seemingly meaningless nature of Proctor’s death (his death won’t bring any concrete benefit) the playwright emphasizes the moral significance of this victory. This idea is extremely sharpened in the final of the play, when Reverend Hale, knowing about Proctor’s innocence, begs Elizabeth to persuade him to sign a confession, considering it meaningless death.
Among the major American playwrights of the 20th century, Arthur Miller was the only one, who paid tribute to the nation’s history. One of his best plays The Crucible is devoted to the infamous Salem process in 1692.