Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” is set in Salem, the 17th-century American society, characterized by religious austerity. Due to the strictness of religious laws, adherence to Puritanism enables one to maintain reputable moral and social standing. Major characters such as, Reverend Parris and Elizabeth, are too keen on maintaining a good name. Thus, their actions portray a desire to protect their reputation. Therefore, reputation is a major theme in Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible”.
The play is set in Salem, the 17th century American society characterized by religious austerity. Adherence to strict religious laws is the norm. This creates a very strict social environment, in which every action is closely monitored. Inevitably, this leads to the development of bad reputation by some of the major characters, especially the antagonists. Reverend Samuel Parris is one such character, disliked by many. He is reputable for greed, self-righteousness, self-importance and domineering attitude.
The reverend’s only concern is maintaining a good name even at the expense of forsaking his ailing daughter, Betty Parris (Bloom 76). From the reader’s perspective, The Reverend is not only an uncaring father but an immoral minister. Moreover, The Reverend’s actions reveal the hypocritical nature of church ministers in 17th century America. Due to The Reverend’s obsession with maintaining a good reputation, the reader is concerned about the authenticity of his faith.
Unlike The Reverend who is selfish, uncaring and greedy, Elizabeth crafts a “good reputation for unfailing honesty” (Hinman et al. 8). However, her good reputation is spoiled when she lies to protect John Proctor. Her decision to protect John Proctor turns tragic and leads to his arrest. This puts her good name to disrepute. It is imperative to state that Elizabeth is inherently honest. However, her decision to lie to protect John Proctor makes the reader question the authenticity of her honesty.
Other than individuals, the play also focuses on the reputation of public institutions, such as the government and the church (Dickinson para 4). The government, with the support of the church, arrests, and convicts landowners, clerics, women, and other citizens who deny witchcraft (Miller 43, 100). The government and the church are justified in arresting and convicting suspect witches, bearing in mind that these two institutions are mandated to ensure strict observance of social and religious norms.
However, how the arrests and convictions are made raises questions about the church and the government view justice. The government relies on spectral evidence and hysterical utterances, as the basis of convicting people of witchcraft. From a historical point of view, hysteria is justified since it is a sign of communion with supernatural powers. However, in the 21st century, such behavior is referred to as psychosomatic. From a legal perspective, spectral evidence and hysterical utterances are invalid since they supersede logic.
Thus, the government and the church are unjust as they convict people based on unfounded assumptions rather than on real hard facts. As such, the church and the government are reputable for injustice. Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” is used metaphorically to refer to the government’s witch-hunt in Salem. Critics argue that the play propagates communism.
Therefore, like most of the characters, such as Reverend Parris and Elizabeth, “The Crucible” generates a negative reputation for propagating communist ideals. Thus, reputation is one of the major themes in the play.
Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2008. Print.
Dickinson, Emily. “Dramatizing history in Arthur Miller’s the Crucible.” 2011. Web.
Hinman, Sheryl. et al. “The crucible by Arthur Miller: Teachers guide.” 1994. Web.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Oxford: Heinemann, 1953. Print.