Why is the play called the Crucible? Webster and his book the dictionary defines a ‘crucible’ as, ‘A container in which metals are heated, involving a change. A severe test or trial.’ ; Author Miller in his play, uses the title ‘The Crucible’ as an analogy for the situation. The actual container- the crucible, is the town of Salem Massachusetts. The contents of the container are the people of Salem, the emotions and feelings of these people are what change. The events that take place in the town are what fuel and heat the people’s emotions and are what affects their actions. Miller also puns on the other meaning of ‘a crucible’ which is: ‘a severe test or trial’; to tie in with the events that take pace in the play- the trials of the accused witches and the extent of the consequences (death by hanging.
) The ‘severe test or trial ‘ referred to above is an inquiry carried out to see whether people’s souls are still with God. This shows the extremity and extent of the trials. It shows how important a part religion plays in the community. Seeing as people’s life styles revolved around working and praying. If people were not working or farming their lands, they are praying.
On holidays they pray, there are hardly any moments of recreation or ‘fun.’ The people of Salem are deeply religious and to drift on to the side of the devil is the most serious ‘sin’ or ‘crime’ imaginable in the community. Just as it was a sin drift on to the side of the devil in the time of the crucible, it was the same to drift on to the side of communism in the 1950’s, when wrote this play. In the 1950’s Senator Joe Mccarthy set up a campaign to rid the United States of all communist supporters. These communist trials would be broadcast on national television. It would involve the accused to admit their guilt even though they were completely innocent, and give the names of 10 other would-be communists or face exile, torture, invasion of family privacy etc. Arthur Miller uses the events of the Salem witch-hunts to represent and show what the communist trials of the 1950’s were.
They were both based on false premises and paranoia, and as more people got involved, more people suffered, this can be summarised by calling it the ‘Snowball effect.’ As it keeps rolling it gets bigger and bigger, as does the trials and witch hunts, as they went on, they got more severe and dragged more individuals in to it. Arthur miller uses a historical happening to expose a modern event, with a great deal of success. The allegations based on shaky or non-existent evidence are completely believed, accused witches lives are threatened as are accused communists. I personally think that Arthur miller has used words and event very successfully to expose the true nature of the communist trials using the Salem witch-hunts. The use of the title ‘The Crucible’ is extremely effective as it refers to and links with occurrences and meaning in the play.