As Eric Burdon once said “Inside each of us, there is a seed of both good and evil. It’s a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other”. The theme of the crucible is basically Good vs. Evil, because in the world of the Crucible is divided between the two camps of Good vs. Evil. But everyone is confused about what side is really the good one and what side is really the evil one, though the reader knows what is actually good and evil. The story makes it seem as evil is winning because one person after another is put to death, even though they are innocent, and people are accused of witchcraft even though they some of them aren’t. So Arthur Miller’s The Crucible establishes the theme overall throughout his story by showing the characters follow in the story and the ideas they believe in, and their overall goals, and also establish a good connection and a different way of good vs evil that no one may have thought possible. So each act of the Crucible has a literary element to show, the theme Good vs. Evil which are dramatic irony, situational irony, verbal irony, and external conflict.
Dramatic irony represents act 1 of the Crucible, because dramatic irony is when the audience knows about something more than the characters do. It is used many times in different things like movies, plays, theatres, and even sometimes in poetry. This is when the audience gets extra information the characters don’t know yet, like what cause the problem in the story and this helps keep the audience more interested in the story and is an effective tool to keep the attention of the audience, and makes a better story and more unique depending the way the author uses it. By giving this extra information for the audience, and it can encourage them to try to think what would happen next in the story, and can also deal with the audience knowing what would happen next, and keeps them on their toes. An example of this is when someone’s business left him destitute, as he lost everything; and the main character is trying to find why this happens, but the audience already gives a clue that the real reason was that someone hacked his business. But the main characters do not know that yet and is trying to fill the pieces together to solve this enigma. In The Crucible uses this irony when Abigail says “Sometimes I wake and find myself standing in the open doorway and not a stitch on my body! I always hear her laughing in my sleep. I hear her singing her Barbados songs and tempting me with-.”(Miller 41).
The audience knows that both Abigail and Tituba are to blame but Abigail is just accusing Tituba and she is the one getting into trouble and no other character knows if she really did it or not, but the audience knows Abigail is just as guilty as her. Also in an article they talked about this kind of irony when it says “ Abigail wants to replace Elizabeth Proctor as the wife of John Proctor because they previously had an adulterous relationship. Accusations follow one another, and most of the residents of Salem are charged with witchcraft, and eventually hanged as in the case of John Proctor.”(Demirkaya). The audience knows that John and Abigail had a relationship and everything about both of them, but the characters in the story does not know it until John admits it, but the people reading the book knew it before everyone else did. This relates to the theme Good vs. Evil by people being evil because they are accusing others of witchcraft even though they didn’t do witchcraft and costing so many lives, and the Good is whoever is standing to find justice and stop all of these accusations and find the truth.
Situational irony is the literary element of the second act, and it relates to the theme because it shows something the audience was not expecting or didn’t see coming, and it works pretty good in the story. So situational irony is the outcome when the audience was following in the story was the one he or she was not expecting, and so it demonstrates an interesting concept and may change the audience perspective in the story and keep them entertain to read more, and keeps an unexpected feeling to the reader wondering if there is more of this throughout the story. There is an example of this in the Crucible, and it is when John forgets one of the ten commandments and it is the one he broke, which was adultery. That is when someone has a relationship between his wife and a person who is not his wife, and that is bad. Which can also refer to Good vs. Evil since what John did was truly obnoxious and shows the reader something about John he might not have known before. That is quite ironic since the commandment John forgot was the one he committed the sin of adultery with Abigail.
This leads to a some problems later on, and to some people like Elizabeth. A line that shows this is when John says “ Aye! You see, sir, between the two of us we do know them all. I think it be a small fault.”(64). John sounds really nervous about the things he had done, and the reader can feel the emotions John feels when he said that. This brings out the theme of Good vs. Evil, because it shows the Good which is the right to do, and the Evil which is what John did which was having an affair with Abigail while having a wife. Also Good can also be Hale in this situation because even though John has committed adultery, and she does not really get mad at him and still prays for him, and tries to kind of help him with the situation he is on.
Verbal irony represents the theme in act three pretty good, because verbal irony is when the literal meaning of what someone is saying is the opposite of what they are saying. An example of this is when a tsunami is coming and someone says that is nice outside, and this is an example of verbal irony, is also used to not hurt someone’s feelings, like in a party and someone says is this dress makes her look fat, and he says is looks perfect even though he doesn’t really mean it, and is the opposite of what he is really saying. It can also help when someone doesn’t really like a person because of the way he acts or how he treats everyone, but he may not want to hurt his feelings because the person that is doing that may not meaning it, and his parent may teach him that at home and their happiness may be sadly transient. Sometimes verbal irony is clear to the reader and sometimes is not, and it typically needs context, and how the speaker’s tone to understand where he is using the verbal irony, and also verbal irony is not used accidental. It depends on the speaker if the speaker is not being ironic he is most likely not using verbal irony. The Crucible uses this irony when Proctor says “Do that which is good, and no harm shall come to thee.”(88). Proctor is actually encouraging them to lie, which can harm the belief of the Puritans, and in which is lying separates people from God, because lying is not good, and it can lead to a worse situation than the person is already in.
Also, this gets Proctor in trouble since he is encouraging them to lie, and Abigail also does this by encouraging girls to lie about them doing witchcraft when they are not doing witchcraft. Since the theme of the Crucible is Good vs. Evil this can also show it by Proctor and Abigail is the evil ones by telling other people to lie and get them into serious problems that may cost them their lives, and the good ones are the people Abigail and Proctor are trying to encourage to lie, because they are innocent and they really don’t know what to do and they are getting encouraged by the evils who can be Proctor and Abigail.
External conflict is when there is a conflict with one person against another person, and that can lead to some problems. It pretty much involved with making a choice or a decision between the confrontation against the other person, heritance, or friend. An example is when someone gets into an argument with a friend about what basketball player is better and is turned into a more heated argument because he and his friend cannot accept each others opinion and it may lead to a broken friendship, and he and his friend may not be friends anymore just because of an argument. Also it may sometimes come in capricious results or unpredictable situations which sometimes can go to far. Another example from The Crucible is between Abigail and Elizabeth when they both are fighting against each other for John Proctor, and it leads to John getting accused and a lot of problems for Abigail and Elizabeth, and it also has consequences for both of them. Also the people who got executed because of false accusations of witchcraft has faded into oblivion, because of the evil the people have done and they feel ashamed of what they have done when some of the people accused were not even doing anything wrong. Also when Elizabeth says “I cannot judge you, John.”(125).
Elizabeth says she cannot believe in John anymore since he had an affair with Abigail who was 17 and he was 35 which it was really weird, and she just cannot believe John did that to her and John dies in the end by refusing to lie and confess to witchcraft, and ends with redemption. Also in the article is said “the focus will be on the main female figures, Abigail and Elizabeth, who respectively embody the female stereotypes of seductress and frigid wife.”(Demirkaya). By focusing on both Abigail and Elizabeth, who are fighting for John and which also shows a external conflict between both of them and Abigail was a target of calumny for having an affair with John Proctor. This goes with the theme Good vs. Evil, Abigail being the evil one because she got an affair with John and Elizabeth is the good one because she didn’t have an affair with anyone.
So in conclusion, all this four literary elements represent the theme of Good vs. Evil, and each of the acts has a different represents the theme in different ways. However, it also establishes a connection between Good which in the Crucible is God and Evil which is the Devil; and the everyone is trying to go to the Good path, but with the accusations and what has happen throughout the story. Some people move further away from the Good and closer to the Evil.
- Demirkaya, Neslihan YÄ±lmaz. “Scapegoating Non-Conforming Identities: Witchcraft Hysteria in
- Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom.” Journal of History, Culture & Art Research / Tarih Kültür ve Sanat Arastirmalari Dergisi, vol. 4, no. 2, June 2015, pp. 123–135. EBSCOhost, doi:10.7596/taksad.v4i2.444.
- Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Penguin Books, 1953.