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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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13. The only thing that Parris and Hale have in common is their
profession-both are ministers of God, with degrees from
Harvard Divinity School. But Parris took up the ministry in
middle life, having first been a merchant in Barbados (where he
acquired Tituba). Hale, on the other hand, has been a minister
all his adult life. In addition, Hale is a scholar, having studied
deeply in demonology, and has a widespread reputation for
"high learning."

The biggest difference between the two is their temperaments.
Parris is a narrow-minded, suspicious, and self-centered man.
His main concern in any situation is how it affects him. This is
especially clear in the opening scene, when he is less worried
about his stricken daughter Betty than about how his enemies
will use the witchcraft to drive him from his pulpit. Later, in Act
III, he calls everyone's defense an attack upon the court, and
tries to use the court's authority to get back at his enemies. In
the end, he gets his comeuppance when Abigail flees with all
his money, and even Judge Danforth calls him a brainless man.

In contrast, Reverend Hale is mostly concerned with the truth,
and with providing for the greatest good for all of God's
creatures. Although his belief in witchcraft is as strong as the
others', it comes from years of study, not superstition. He comes
to Proctor's house in Act II because he feels uneasy about
signing death warrants for people he does not know. In the last
act he comes to the prison to persuade the condemned prisoners
to confess, even if it means lying. This is a tremendous act of
self-sacrifice-everything he once believed in must be thrust
aside to save these people's lives.



14. Arthur Miller first thought of calling his play Those Familiar
Spirits, which refers to the "spirit" a witch supposedly "sends
out" to torment her victims. By changing the title to The
Crucible, the author broadened the meaning of the play.

A crucible is an earthenware pot or bowl used for melting down
metal. In the Middle Ages alchemists (who were often
associated with witches) used the crucible in their search for a
way to turn baser metals into gold. Today, a crucible is the
name given to the well at the bottom of a blast furnace where
the molten steel collects. Whatever is in a crucible therefore is
subjected to tremendous heat and its solid structure is
completely broken down. This is a perfect metaphor for what
happened in Salem in 1692.

Another meaning of the word crucible is "a severe trial or test."
This would certainly apply to John Proctor, whose "goodness" is
put to the ultimate test. He can do evil by "confessing" and live.
But in the end he chooses to die rather than "give a lie to dogs."

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