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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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What Miller does instead is get us thinking about something else
entirely, in this case, what's wrong between John and Elizabeth
Proctor. And part of what's wrong is that John's been to Salem
once already, and there he saw Abigail. Elizabeth must be
wondering if it really is over between her husband and this girl;
maybe he went to see her again and that's why he was late.
What she's really worried about is John still loves Abigail, but
Elizabeth doesn't yet have a good reason to accuse him of this
directly. Besides, John hasn't been to town in more than a week.
But Mary Warren has, and the stories she brings back are hard
to believe. Elizabeth is carefully working up something as she
tells John about the court, the judges, the fourteen people
already in jail, the talk of hanging. Who's the cause of this
madness? "Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and
where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel."

You see what's happened? While we're waiting for Elizabeth to
spring the name of Abigail, Arthur Miller has slipped the
exposition in by the side door, as it were.

Elizabeth puts her husband to a test: he must go to town and tell
them this witchcraft business is a fraud. Of course he hesitates,
afraid no one will believe him. But Elizabeth doesn't see it that
way: "John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt,
would you falter now? I think not."

Now its out. But Proctor's fed up with her suspicion and her
coldness, and tells her bluntly, "Let you look to your own
improvement before you go to judge your husband any more....
Learn charity, woman."

Suppose you've done something you're ashamed of, something
that badly hurt a person you love very much. You can say that
you're sorry and you'll never do it again, and you'll try
everything you can think of to make up for it. Of course you
know things may never be the same again, but when months go
by and the person you hurt still hasn't forgiven you, it's
understandable that you'd begin to resent it. This is how John
Proctor feels.

It's easy to sympathize with him in this scene. He did wrong, but
he confessed it, and Abigail was put out. And he has "gone
tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone." But "still
an everlasting funeral marches round [Elizabeth's] heart."
Nobody's perfect, and enough's enough.

Let's not forget, though, that the last time we saw Proctor, he
was with Abigail, and he admitted looking up at her window
and that he still may think about her softly from time to time.
And he did not say, "I don't love you anymore." This is the real
issue to Elizabeth-not the wrong he did before or the right he's
trying to do now, but how he still feels in his heart about
Abigail. We know she's got good reason to worry.

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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