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A Test of Character in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

A Test of Character in The Crucible

A crucible refers to a harsh test, and in The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, each person is challenged in a severe test of his or her character or morals. Many more people fail than pass, but three notable characters stand out. Reverend John Hale, Elizabeth Proctor, and John Proctor all significantly change over the course of the play.

All participants in the witch-hunt were influenced by the society that existed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Salem operated as a theocracy, a government ruled by and subject to religious authority. In a theocracy, people’s sins are not forgiven, so that when they commit an indiscretion, they are left feeling guilty. “The witch-hunt was….a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims.” (p. 7) Characters such as Abigail Williams and Mrs. Putnam used the witch-hunts in the way cited above, as a method of confessing their sins without being accountable for them. Others used the chaos created by it for their own benefit. Thomas Putnam made his daughter Ruth accuse both George Jacobs and Rebecca Nurse so he could buy the resulting unclaimed land after they were hung. Any character that accused, confessed, or in any way joined the witch-hunt failed his or her test.

The test that Reverend John Hale faces is whether he can change his character early enough to redeem himself for the lives he has caused to be lost. He is the character that shows the most significant transformation overall. When he first comes to Salem, he is eager to find witchcraft and is honored that his scholastic skills are necessary. He feels that as an exorcist, it is his duty to help pe…

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…nnot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (p. 143) By the end of the play, John has grown enough to realize that though he was wrong to have an affair, he did not lose all honor. By learning this lesson and keeping his honor right up until his death, John passes his test.

All three of the characters grow, but only two of them pass their test. At the end of the play, John and Elizabeth Proctor achieve what they would not have been able to do at the beginning. Reverend John Hale, on the other hand, significantly changes, but does not fully comprehend the truth of his wrongdoing soon enough to have passed his test.

Works Cited:

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. 1953. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.

The Symbolism of the Piano in The Piano

The Symbolism of the Piano in The Piano

The piano has been inextricably linked with the roles and expectations of women in British society since its advent in the mid 1700s to the late 1800s when rising standards of living made it more accessible to middle class society. Pianos were regarded as “secure icons of social distinction” 1 and a wife was viewed similarly as a possession of “privatization, success and respectability.”2 Pianos were instrumental in both reinforcing gender roles and as delineators of class distinction thus perpetuating the class system. 3

While concentrating primarily on Ada, this essay will discuss the symbolism of the piano in The Piano expressed through the relationship with each of the four main characters of the film. I will also comment on the piano as a colonial representation of conquest.

In one of the earliest scenes in The Piano, Ada waits with her young daughter for the arrival of her new husband and a party of Maori workers who will carry the their baggage to the house. On the empty beach in a new land, and alone with her daughter asleep beside her, she consoles herself by fingering her piano, still trapped within its wooden house. On Stewart’s arrival the next day, he quickly rejects her plea to have the piano carried to Ada’s new home or even to return to collect it. As the party climb a ridge behind the beach, Ada stands on a promontory and views the piano standing alone on the sand below her. Framed in the overpowering and commanding landscape of the harsh, unyielding New Zealand bush, the crafted wood and iron piano stands as an image of colonialism.4 However, the dominant image conveyed in the scene is one of loss, isolation and the separation of the pi…

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…ight and mocking “carnivalesque”. (Politics of Voice, p.36).

8 The performance of music was to be “in private company” Music and Image, p.39

9 Hazel, Valerie The Politics of Voice and Jane Campion’s Piano, p.30

10 As for instance when he offers four keys for them to lie together, she counters with five.

11 Gordon, Suzy “I clipped your wing, that’s all”: auto-erotism and the female spectator, p.202

12 “And the wind said ‘remember how we used to play?’ “Then the wind took her hand and said ‘come with me.’ “But she refused.” This story suggests a change from a compliant Flora to an independent, free-thinking Flora whose choice is her own.

13 Edmond Abat quoted in Reading Readings

14 The piano was not previously at his house so it cannot really be termed a return. Baines’ comment “I’m giving it back” refers more to possession than place.

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