Wednesday, July 10, 2013

23: The Crucible - Arthur Miller

"Why do you  never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem - vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!"

"I have signed seventy-two death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it."

"In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up the witnesses to prove his innocent. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? ...Now, we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims - and they do testify, the children certainly do testify...I think I have made my point. Have I not?"

The Crucible is another classic text I hadn't previously read that I will be teaching next year. It was an incredibly painful read because of my own fluffy emotions. Miller is, of course, brilliant in it (although I found it very annoying that what should have been endnoted commentary interrupted the narrative frequently, but I assume that that is not read aloud in production). Death of a Salesman is beloved to me, and there are quite a few similarities between Willy Loman and John Proctor and I think one could make an argument about the flippancy and lack of empathy that Biff and Happy have and compare that with the flippancy and lack of respect for human life that the accusing girls have.

Background Anecdote #1: In middle school we had to do a creative presentation after researching something in American history. I made a HUGE diorama of a little jail in Salem. The footprint was probably 2'x2' and it included a tree with a noose, a styrofoam jail with pinecone-piece-roof, tiny jail cells with black toothpick bars, and little hand made dollies with little hand made Puritan outfits in various states of death (yes, I even had one that was being pressed with a board made from popsicle sticks and a real little rock pile). That summer my family went to Salem and we did the whole Salem thing, so it is fairly fresh in my head.
Background Anecdote #2: I was a victim of a crime and many people thought I was 'crazy' and falsely accusing the perp. This has given me an INSANE hatred of people who falsely accuse people of crimes, because that is the fuel that some people need to assume that real victims of real crimes COULD BE false accusers.

The whole time I read the play, my hatred for Abigail, Mary, Mercy, et al was so overpowering I could barely spare any pity for the victims and our protagonist, John Proctor. I am, however, very excited to teach it because it brings up so many interesting discussion points for my students to start to develop and articulate their personal philosophy on life, revenge, morality, the legal system, etc. I also think that, unfortunately, we live in a very appropriate time to make this text come to life. This HuffPo article demonstrates a very recent modern witch hunt against one of the totally innocent 'suspects' in the Boston bombings. I think it would be very interesting for students to research recent stories of mass hysteria induced demands for justice, mass hysteria induced accusations, and innocent people being exonerated after more evidence comes forth and discussing that.

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