The Crucible by Arthur Miller
I never read The Crucible in high school, but The Chancellor’s taught it to his American Literature class before, and he’s talked to me about Arthur Miller and the ideas he wrote about in his plays. Plus, I’d seen the AWFUL adaptation that was quite thick on nakedness and a bit thin on thematic development, so I was curious to see how the play would stack up. And, let’s not forget that we’re living in a weird hybrid McCarthyistic/Nixonian era that I thought only existed in history books but our presidential administration decided to revive in an attempt to kill us all from the stress (it’s been a LONG seven months, y’all).
So. We have a Puritan community that does not believe in jumping on the sin wagon. We have a slave, er, servant, girl from the Caribbean named Tituba who has maybe been forced to convert to Christianity. We have Abigail, a teenaged girl who is influential in the power of suggestion. And we have a community rocked by fear and paranoia when there’s a suggestion that a girl has been possessed by the devil, because there are witches in the midst. And then there’s John Proctor, who’s an agnostic-type man who doesn’t go in for religion and mayyyybe fell into Abigail’s treacherous teenaged vagina while she was working for his wife (because THAT trope never gets old when we read about it from white men, amirite?).
It’s a play ostensibly about the Salem Witch Trials, but it’s REALLY about McCarthyism and the way paranoia and witch-hunting ruin community.
I liked the overall idea and themes the play was reinforcing, but John Proctor is the dullest of dull “heroes” (and DO NOT get me started on Daniel Day-Lewis in the adaptation. We all have an irrational hatred for an actor; he’s mine). And the format of the play is just odd. There are pages and pages of exposition, not even from an off-stage narrator, which was terribly jarring. I like to see a play performed even more than I like to read it, but I couldn’t help think, “How do you even perform this?” and it took me out of the reading experience.
I’ve read really amazing plays, and this is not it. If you want an excellent critique of Puritanism, read Nathaniel Hawthorne, especially “The Minister’s Black Veil” or “Young Goodman Brown.” If you want a great story about the Salem Witch Trials, read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. And if you want a great critique on McCarthyism, I highly recommend the film Good Night, and Good Luck.