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Critical Lens Study Guide by Jocelyn Dicent
Transcript of Critical Lens Study Guide by Jocelyn Dicent
Catcher in the Rye
Author: J. D. Salinger
Genre: This book is considered to be a
novel, which is a name for a coming of age novel. It is named like this because it deals with the psychological and moral growth of the main character, Holden Caulfield.
Key Characters + Characterization:
Holden Caulfield: Holden is the novel's protagonist. He is a teenage boy who has been kicked out of various high schools. He is very pessimistic, which seems to be because of the death of his brother, Allie, and the suicide of one of his schoolmates. Holden's pessimism and harshness is evident when he calls Stradlater, his roommate and moron and talks about how all morons never want to discuss anything. Holden is also extremely impulsive, such as when he fought Stradlater for going on a date with Jane, Holden's old childhood friend whom he liked. Worst of all, Holden is very apathetic about his future, which is apparent considering that he's flunked out of 4 schools and has been given multiple warnings to start applying himself. Holden is also extremely judgemental of everything around him, as evidenced by his overuse of the word phony to describe those that are superficial or traditional. He also wants to be "the catcher in the rye" because he wants to preserve his innocence and the innocence of others.
Phoebe Caulfield: Phoebe is Holden’s younger sister. She is 10 years old and she still has childhood innocence, as evidenced by her writing her name numerous ways on her notebook as many children do. She also displays a sense of authority at certain times, such as when she corrects Holden on the lyrics of the song he heard that made him want to be the "catcher in the rye". Phoebe is also very intelligent and mature for her age, like when she's able to figure out that Holden was kicked out of school again without him telling her and when she tells him that he doesn't like anything. She's also extremely inquisitive and easily influenced, such as when she badgers Holden about what he wants to be when he grows up and when she decides to runaway with Holden.
Literary Element #1: Symbolism
The “catcher in the rye”: This is what Holden decides he wants to be after he hears the song "Comin' Thro the Rye". He imagines himself on a cliff with children playing in the rye, and if they're on the verge of tumbling off the cliff, he'll catch them. However, Phoebe informs him that he misheard the lyric; the song is actually about sex. This idea of being the "catcher in the rye" represents Holden's desire to preserve his innocence and the innocence of others from the adult world.
Holden’s red hunting hat: Holden's red hat basically represents his individuality and uniqueness. It shows his desire to be different from everyone else. Nonetheless, he's also very self-conscious about the hat and chooses not to wear it around people he knows. Thus, it reflects Holden's struggle with isolation versus companionship.
The Museum of Natural History: Holden mentions that he likes the museum because the exhibits never change. However, it bothers him that he's changed every time he goes back. The museum represents the type of world Holden wants to live in: one in which nothing ever changes. He has had difficulty dealing with change in his life, especially his brother's death. A world without change would be easier for him to handle.
The ducks in the Central Park lagoon: Holden questions what happens to the ducks in the Central Park lagoon when winter comes throughout the novel. He later finds that the ducks leave for the winter and come back in the spring. The ducks symbolize the idea that some vanishings are temporary and that change is cyclical rather than permanent. The pond being partly frozen and partly not frozen also symbolizes the transition Holden's going through - he's not a child but he's not an adult either.
Literary Element #2: Motif
Relationships: Although Holden is given various chances to form relationships throughout the book, he can't because they bring him his worst fears. Relationships can cure his loneliness, but they also bring him closer to the adult world. Relationships are unpredictable and always changing, both of which are things Holden fears. Thus, he never makes a steady relationship in the novel.
Loneliness: Holden experiences loneliness throughout the book. He attempts to form relationships, such as with Sally Hayes and Carl Luce. Nonetheless, they are unsuccessful because of his rude behavior. This rude behavior is the result of Holden's need to isolate himself in order to preserve his individuality and avoid "phonies". Unfortunately, it also leaves him with feelings of loneliness.
Lying and deception: Holden believes that those who are "phony" are superficial, yet he is phony because of his lying. He claims that he's a good liar and he even lies for fun, like when he fabricated a story about needing an operation when he found his schoolmate's mother on the train. Holden's continuous lying shows that his idea that he's not phony is a self-deception. He can be insensitive and cruel, and the fact that he doesn't own up to his actions proves that he's guilty of being phony too.
Holden is telling his story from a psychiatric ward. He talks about the events for a few months before his admittance.Holden has been kicked out of yet another boarding school. After engaging in a fight with his roommate, he decides to leave school early and spend time in New York City before seeing his parents. Holden goes from bar to bar and hotel to hotel. He meets up with various people an attempts to form relationships with them but he's too rude to do so. Eventually, he talks to his sister, who points out that he hates everyone and everything in his life. She somewhat points out, along with Mr.Antolini (an old teacher of his), that he has no apparent goals for himself and needs to be more mature.
Holden decides he wants to runaway, but when his sister insists on joining him, he decides it's a bad idea. Instead, he decides to go to the carousel with her and he watches her attempt to grab a brass ring. In that moment, Holden sees new hope for himself and the world and even comes close to tears. Eventually, Holden decides not to talk about when he went home and how he ended up in a psychiatric ward. Nonetheless, he mentions that he's starting a new school in the fall and sounds a bit almost optimistic about it, which is a big change from his cynicism.
Holden's story takes place over only three days, from Saturday afternoon to Monday. This story takes place in the late 1940s or early 1950s, which is the post-World War II era. This is crucial since that time was also a time of growing conformity and consumerism. Holden mentions the war and the effect of it on his brother D.B, as well as the atomic bomb. It's possible that the war had an impact on Holden too. Holden begins the novel at Pencey Prep in Pennsylvania but spends most of his time in New York City. Holden switches his location multiple times. He goes from different bars and hotels, but he also goes to Central Park, his home, Mr.Antolini's home and the carousel.
Point of View
Holden Caulfield is the narrator of this novel. The novel is narrated in the first person and Holden is narrating from a psychiatric ward after the events of the novel have taken place. This impacts the meaning of the novel because Holden is an unreliable narrator. This is clear since he constantly lies and admits that he is a good liar. The readers can tell that some of his narration is not accurate based on how he tells things. For instance, he claims that he made himself throw up after drinking a bottle of scotch so that it appears as though he knows how to hold his liquor. His narration makes his experiences seem humorous and make him appear almost charming. Thus, the narration impacts the meaning in that it subdues the truth within the events that are being told, forcing the reader to read between the lines. Nonetheless, the first person narration allows the reader to connect more with Holden, despite the fact that he's almost afraid of connecting with the reader (as evidenced by his withholding of information). Furthermore, his narration allows the reader to understand exactly what troubles him and how he thinks, which helps the reader understand his conflict even better.
Isolation as a form of Self Preservation: Holden uses isolation as a way of protecting himself. Interactions with other people confuse and scare him because he's never sure of what will happen. His isolation, however, causes most of his pain. He needs relationships, but his bitterness prevents making any strong relationships with others. His isolation becomes both his motivation and his problem. For instance, he wants to reconnect with Jane Gallagher to get out of his isolation, but he is too frightened to make any real effort to contact her.
The Phoniness of the Adult World: Holden believes that adults are "phonies", a phrase Holden uses to talk about everything that's wrong with the world. While Holden spends a lot of energy searching for phoniness in others, he never talks about his own. He constantly lies, making up stories that are pointless and cruel. A fine example of this is when he meets the mom of one of his classmates on the train to New York. Thus, Holden cannot adhere to the same standards he uses to judge others.
The Painfulness of Growing Up: Holden fears change and wants everything to be easily understandable, like the exhibits in the museum. Instead of acknowledging that adulthood scares him, he believes that adulthood is phony and that childhood is not. This is displayed by his fantasy about "the catcher in the rye". Holden’s encounters with Mr.Antolini and Phoebe reveal that Holden's ideas about growing up are foolish and that growing up is essential to life.
Stradlater, Holden's roommate, goes on a date with Jane Gallagher (Holden's childhood friend). Holden fights with Stradlater because he won't tell him the details about the date.
Holden decides to leave Pencey Prep. When he's on the train to New York, he meets Ernest Morrow's mother and lies about his identity and what he's doing.
In his hotel in New York, he meets a man named Maurice who offers him a 5 dollar prostitute. Holden ends up paying Sunny, the prostitute, 5 dollars just to talk. Once she left, she came back with Maurice for five more dollars. Holden has a fight with Maurice and then Maurice and Sunny take the money.
Sally Hayes and Holden go on a date to see a show and then ice skate at Radio City. Holden talks about running away with her, an idea Sally isn't comfortable with. He offends her and she leaves.
Holden decides to visit Phoebe while their parents are out. She guesses that Holden has been kicked out of school and Holden tells her about his dream of being "the catcher in the rye".
Holden goes to Mr. Antolini's. They have a long conversation and Antolini mentions his fear that Holden may suffer a fall he can't recover from if he refuses to grow up. Holden goes to sleep on the Antolinis' couch but is woken up by Mr. Antolini stroking him. Holden decides to leave after this incident.
Phoebe rides the Central Park carousel as Holden watches, which brings him happiness and hope.
Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck
Genre: This book is considered to be a
, due to it's length. It's not short enough to be considered a short story, but it's not long enough to be considered a novel either. It is also a tragedy since a character dies and causes grief for the protagonist and the readers.
Key Characters + Characterization:
Lennie Small: Lennie is a protagonist and a migrant farmer. He loves to pet soft things and has amazing strength, as evidenced by when he is found stroking a dead mouse he accidentally killed in his pocket in the opening pages. He is also blindly devoted to George, as witnessed by he anger when Crooks convinces him that something bas has happened to George. Crooks convinces him that something is wrong and nearly reduces Lennie to tears. He is also very hopeful and strongly believes in the farm that he and George aspire to obtain one day. He constantly mentions the farm and the rabbits that George has promised him. He is also very innocent, considering the fact that he has a mentally disability and thus has a childlike mentality. His enthusiasm for the vision of the farm is also very contagious, as he convinces George, Candy and Crooks that paradise might be possible. Lennie is the least dynamic (most static) of the story and is a flat character. He undergoes no significant changes, development, or growth throughout the story and remains exactly as the reader encounters him in the opening pages.
George Milton: George is a protagonist and a migrant worker. George is short-tempered but a devoted friend, whose commitment to protecting his friend never falters. In the beginning of the book, he talks about how his life would be easier without Lennie, but he continues to protect him nonetheless. He constantly tells Lennie what to do so that he can stay safe, such as telling Lennie to stay away from Curley's wife. George is a dynamic and a round character, since he changes as the story progresses. For instance, during his conversation with Slim it was obvious that he could change because he admits that he once abused Lennie for his own amusement. At the start of the novella, George was an idealist who believes that the future farm he and Lennie want can be obtained. By the end, he can no longer maintain that belief.
Literary Element #1: Foreshadowing
Lennie petting the dead mouse: This incident foreshadows the death of Lennie’s puppy. Lennie ends up petting or bouncing his puppy with too much force, thus killing the puppy. Later, he strokes his dead puppy, just as he stroked the dead mouse after he killed it. This also anticipates Lennie accidentally killing Curley’s wife. He was invited to touch her hair. When she told him to stop, he chose to try to silence her and broke her neck by accident.
Lennie being run out of Weed for the incident involving the girl in the red dress: This foreshadowes his altercation with Curley's wife. During this incident, Lennie touched a woman's dress and was accused of rape. A lynch mob formed and George and Lennie ran away. After killing Curley's wife, a similar mob forms. However, the outcome is quite different from before. George kills Lennie instead of running away with Lennie
The death of Candy’s dog: Candy's dog was killed because he was in misery and was weak. His dog was shot in the back of the head for a quick and painless death. This foreshadowes Lennie's death because George ends up killing Lennie so that Lennie would no longer have to face this type of fate over and over. He shot him in the back of the head for a quick and painless death.
Candy’s regret that he didn’t kill his dog himself: Candy regretted not doing the deed himself because of the strong relationship they had together. He couldn't bear the fact that he allowed a stranger to kill his dog. This foreshadows George's decision to shoot Lennie himself. George didn't want to watch others kill his friend and preferred to do it himself.
Literary Element #2: Symbolism
The clearing in the woods: The clearing in the woods symbolizes the protection that Lennie and George strive to have. It is their rendezvous point if they get into trouble, and it's simply beautiful. It also represents their idea of a perfect life due to its beauty.
Lennie and George’s farm: It represents an ideal world where all men can live in harmony. It represents the American dream of sustaining yourself that all men want to obtain. The idea of the farm entices various people and represents the possibility of protection and self reliance.
Candy’s dog: Candy's dog represents the fate that lies for one who has outlived their purpose. Candy's dog was shot because the dog was very decrepit and weak. The dog was very old and was clearly dying. Furthermore, the dog was of no use on the farm because of how weak and fatigued it was. Its death represents what one who no longer serves a purpose in society will face.
Lennie’s puppy: Lennie's puppy represents the struggle between the weak and the strong. Lennie's accidental murder of his dog ultimately represents that the strong will always prevail over the weak.
George and Lennie are great friends; however, Lennie has a mental disability, making him extremely dependent on George. Lennie's lack of understanding of the world causes him to get into many problems. He often needs George around in order to ensure that he doesn't get into harms way. Many pose a threat to him, such as Curley and Curley's wife. Various people try to take advantage of him because of his disability and this leads to conflict.
Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife and runs back to the clearing in the woods. Curley forms a mob to lynch Lennie for his actions against his wife. George decides to have mercy on Lennie by killing him himself. Although he gives Lennie a painless death, with Lennie dies the dream of the farm and a great friendship. Despite this, it was ultimately Lennie's fate to die.
The novella takes place on a farm close to Soledad, California. It is set sometime during the Great Depression, a time in which many were impoverished and searching for work. Many are scrambling for food and shelter in order to sustain themselves. This impacts the novel somewhat, since our protagonists' greatest dream is to be self sustaining. There isn't enough to go around so everyone usually prefers isolation over companionship. The novella takes place over the course of 3 days.
Point of View
This story is told from the point of view of a third-person omniscient narrator. This narrator is omniscient since they can describe the setting to us, but doesn't really look into the thoughts of the characters. This impacts the meaning of the novella in that it provides the readers with the actions and words of multiple characters. By watching how they interact, the reader is able to understand the situation and witness the full extent of Lennie's interactions with others, thus making the reader feel sympathy once he is dead. Furthermore, this narration provides an accurate account of the events that are occurring, meaning that nothing is distorting the story. The story would also be very different, had it been told from George or Lennie's point of view. They would have probably been focused on certain themes and ideas if they had narrated. Thus, this point of view truly impacts the meaning of the story.
The Predatory Nature of Human Existence: Nearly all of the characters admit to feeling lonely, isolated and unhappy, yet they still choose to hurt one another. For example, Curley’s wife admits to Candy, Crooks, and Lennie that she is unhappily married, and Crooks tells Lennie that life is no good without a companion to turn to in times of confusion and need. Despite this, they still feel the need to detroy those who are weaker. For example, Crooks criticizes Lennie’s dream of the farm and his dependence on George. Crooks seems to be his strongest once convinces Lennie that something bad will happen to George and nearly gets him to cry. Curley’s wife feels most powerful when she threatens to have Crooks lynched.
Fraternity and the Idealized Male Friendship: George and Lennie's dream farm entices many people on the farm. Candy is drawn to it, as is Crooks, despite having witnessed other men have the same dream and fail. The farm attracts them because it will allow them to protect one another and live harmoniously with one another. Nonetheless, the world is too predatory for such relationships. Lennie and George come close, but even their relationship fails by the end of the novella.
The Impossibility of the American Dream: Most of the characters in
Of Mice and Men
admit to dreaming of a different life. Curley’s wife confesses that she wanted to be a movie star. Candy wants to join Lennie and George on their farm, as does Crooks. These dreams are American because they are dreams for happiness and freedom to follow one's desires. George and Lennie’s journey proves that paradises of freedom, joy, and security are nonexistent.
Lennie and George arrive in a clearing in the woods. George finds that Lennie has accidentally killed a mouse by petting it too hard.
Lennie is promised a puppy and Candy's dog is killed.
Lennie and Curley get into a fight because Curley can't find his wife and Lennie breaks Curley's hand.
Lennie kills his puppy by accident. Curley's wife comes in the barn, sees Lennie and consoles him. Later on, she lets Lennie feel her hair, but Lennie won't let go. When she resists, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck while trying to quiet her. Lennie runs to the clearing in the woods for safety.
Curley leads a mob of men from the farm to search for and kill Lennie once it is discovered that Curley's wife is dead.
George finds Lennie in the clearing and shoots him in the back of the head while retelling the story of their farm.
A Separate Peace
Author: John Knowles
Genre: A Separate Peace is known as a coming-of-age or a
novel, since it deals with teens facing adulthood and war. It is also considered to be a tragedy since a protagonist dies.
Key Characters + Characterization:
Gene Forrester: Gene is both the protagonist and the antagonist of the novel. Gene is very studious and intellectual, as evidenced by his insistence on studying and his goal of becoming valedictorian. However, he is very competitive, which is clear when he believes that Phineas is trying to be better than him when Phineas starts studying more for school. He is very envious and resentful of Phineas, as evidenced by various comments throughout the book about how Phineas always gets away with everything. Nonetheless, he admires Phineas' amazing athletic prowess. Gene also seems to hate himself and is extremely willing to alter his own identity, as witnessed when he mentions that he wants to become Phineas. He has an inner enemy, an enemy which he conquers while in school. His enemy was never Phineas, but his dark, resentful side.
Phineas "Finny": Phineas is also a protagonist in the novel, although the novel is mostly about Gene. He is the epitome of innocence in this novel, as evident by his unwillingness to believe that the World War II is occurring. Not only is he a skilled athlete, but he doesn't believe in competition. When he broke the school swimming record, he told Gene not to tell anyone else because he doesn't like competition. He views athleticism as a realm of achievement and fun, not one in which there are opponents. Phineas is also a little selfish in that he thinks that everyone thinks like him. Although he believes that when you love someone, they will love you back, this is not necessarily always the case. Phineas has an extreme amount of trust for people he loves, especially Gene. Since he loves Gene, he finds it hard to believe that Gene could ever hurt him by jouncing the tree branch. Overall Phineas assumes the best of everyone. Furthermore, he is a natural leader. He creates the Super Suicide Society and easily persuades his friends to attend everyday. Brinker Hadley is a foil to Phineas because he represents order and adulthood, while Phineas represents fun and innocence.
Literary Element #1: Foreshadowing
Gene (as an adult) mentions that he overlooked the fact that the marble steps in Devon were very hard. He notes that it was surprising he overlooked this crucial fact: This foreshadows Phineas' fall on the marble steps. As an adult, it appears as though Gene regrets that the fall ever happened, since he had apparently forgotten this fact. Gene mentions this at the beginning of the novel before we are even introduced to Finny.
Brinker tells Gene that he will have his day in court for what he did to Finny in the tree: Brinker says this to Gene early on when he already has ideas that Gene may be the source of Finny’s tree accident. This foreshadows the pseudo court trial Brinker sets up later in the book to investigate the accident. This court trial eventually leads to Gene's admittance that he jounced the tree branch and caused Finny to fall and then Phineas' second fall in attempt not to listen to what was being said in court.
Gene (as an adult) talks about a tree on campus and then says, "Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence.” (Knowles 14): This foreshadows Phineas' fall since it connects the tree to violence. It also foreshadows Phineas' death in general because of the connection of the tree to a violent death. Essentially, the tree is what started Phineas on his path to his death.
Literary Element #2: Motif
Transformations: In this novel, Finny is transformed from a healthy athlete into a cripple after his accident. He then tries to transform Gene into the best athlete possible. These developments are part of their codependency. The summer session at Devon also transforms into the winter session. The summer session is a time of peace and carefree innocence, while the winter session is characterized by rules, order, and the darkness of the war. Leper is also driven to leave the army because of the transformations he sees, like men turning into women and men’s heads on women’s bodies. These transformations basically embody the idea of dealing with entering the war and adulthood.
A Separate Peace
has many athletic activities. The athletics in the book mostly highlight Finny since he is an excellent athlete. Despite that, he despises competition (unlike Gene) and believes athletics to be about health and achievement without winners and losers. This is evident when he invents blitzball. Blitzball is the perfect game for Finny because it focuses on pure athleticism rather than the defeat of opponents. This idea of not defeating others contributes to Finny's refusal to believe a war is going on.
Gene and Phineas are roommates at Devon School in New Hampshire. While Phineas is an amazing athlete , Gene is an intellectual. However, Gene has a love-hate relationship with Phineas. One minute he admires Finny’s abilities, the next he resents Finny’s athletic abilities and morals/rules. Gene is not happy with the person he is and he envies the person that Phineas is. One day, Gene, Finny, Leper and a bunch of other boys are in the woods taking part in their Suicide Society of the Summer Session. One of their routines is to jump from a tree into a river from very high up. Gene almost fell from the tree and died but Finny saved him. However, on a different day later in time, Gene takes his hatred for Finny a step too far by jouncing the tree limb both he and Finny were on, causing Phineas to fall and suffer a serious accident. He broke his leg very badly and this injury renders him incapable of playing sports ever again.
Gene feels guilty about making Finny fall out of the tree, but Finny doesn’t believe him when he tries to tell him what he did. They repair their relationship and become better friends than ever. They develop a relationship so strong that they need each other; Finny needs Gene to play sports so that he can enjoy sports vicariously through him while Gene needs Finny so he can lose himself and become Finny. Eventually, Brinker, who is increasingly more curious as to how Finny suffered his accident, rounds up a bunch of boys and makes a mock court so that they can investigate the accident. They question Gene, Finny and Leper but it is Leper who eventually tells the story until he stops because he feels that they don’t find him important. Finny doesn’t care to know the details and runs out but he slips on the marble floor and breaks his leg again. While being operated on again, Finny dies because bone marrow went into his bloodstream. Gene feels as though he has died too because they were so dependent on one another that he felt as though he was becoming Phineas. Nonetheless, all of Gene’s hatred has disappeared, as though it has died with Phineas. Though Gene didn’t enter the war during his time at Devon, he claims that he killed his enemy there (his dark side).
The novel predominantly takes place in Devon School in New Hampshire. Devon School has a wide yard called the Far Common and the First Academy Building. It has marble steps, while the Far Common has gravel paths that stem off from it with numerous trees. The campus also has a large yard, a group of trees, three similar dormitories and a circle of old houses. The Field house is called the cage and there’s a huge open sweep of ground known as the Playing Fields. There are tennis courts on the left, enormous football and soccer and lacrosse fields in the center, woods on the right, and at the far end a small river. On the other side of the river there’s a stadium. There’s a tree with small scars rising along its trunk with a limb extending over the river and another thinner limb growing near it. The book is also set during World War II and the boys in the book are nearing the age of enlistment and drafting, thus nearing adulthood.
Codependency 's threat to identity: Gene and Phineas eventually form a friendship that is so codependent, their identities blur together. Their friendship is first fueled by Gene's envy and hatred for Phineas, and Finny's leadership qualities. Finny's fall from the tree changes Gene so that he no longer holds the same feelings for Finny. After the fall, they depend on one another. Finny depends on Gene to play sports for him and Gene depends on Finny to train him so that he can be just like Finny. Finny's death doesn't seem to separate them, since Gene says that the funeral was his own. Gene lost so much of his identity to Finny that it feels as though he has died too.
Inner Enemies: Gene claims that everyone goes to war at a certain point in their lives, whether it be literal or figurative. He believes that they go to war when they realize that the world is hostile and that some enemy must be destroyed. For most of Gene’s classmates, they go through this realization because of World War II and the fact that they have to lose their innocence and enter adulthood. Each of them react in their own way to this. For instance, Leper reacts to this by descending into madness. Gene states that he fought his own war while at Devon and killed his enemy there. Gene's enemy wasn't Finny, but was actually himself. He basically killed his enemy (his resentful, envious nature) by knocking Finny from the tree, becoming more like Finny and receiving forgiveness for his actions. Everyone basically creates enemies except for Finny, who refuses to believe he can have any enemies. In a sense, this makes Finny's existence almost too good for humanity and the war era.
Author: Arthur Miller
Genre: This play is a tragedy, since there are various characters that die, including the main character. This play is also an allegory for the time period in which it was written. During the time that Arthur Miller wrote this play, the McCarthy Trials were going on, in which people were falsely accused of being communists. Miller compares the trials to the witch trials by writing this play.
This story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, in the year of 1692. The play goes to a few different locations in the town, as in Reverend Parris’s home, John Proctor’s home, the court and the prison. They are a town of Puritans who are intense about religion. . The town is very close to the wilderness, where the Native Americans lived. They tried to convert them, but very few were converted and some people were even killed by them. For this reason, the people of Salem believe that the forest is the Devil’s home. Lastly, the people of Salem lived under a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies.
Point of View
The narrator of the play is a third person omniscient narrator. The narrator is an outside narrator that occasionally interrupts the play in order to give background on the characters. This impacts the meaning of the play because the narrator is barely present. The narration helps us to better understand the events that occur. Thus, the narrator impacts the meaning of the play by developing the readers' insight on the characters and making the readers understand why certain events are occurring. The narrator is crucial to the readers' understanding of the play.
John attempts to save his wife from being hanged. Although he is informed that his wife claims to be pregnant and can live on until the baby is born, he decides to fight on to make sure his wife can live afterwards. He attempts to use his servant, Mary Warren, who was there the night the girls were dancing, to prove that the girls are frauds. Mary’s testimony fails to sway the judges because the girls pretend Mary is bewitching them. John then openly admits to his affair with Abigail in order to prove that that’s why Abigail wants his wife dead. Unfortunately, they call Elizabeth in to verify why she fired Abigail and she decided to lie to save her husband’s name. Eventually, Mary Warren has a nervous breakdown and accuses Proctor of being with the Devil in order to save herself. Proctor realizes that he won’t win the trial because it’s not really about justice anymore. He goes to prison for witchcraft but is later given a chance to save his life - if he confesses to the crimes he’s been charged of and names names. At first he decides to confess and signs his name to the confession, but he tears it up because he has too much pride, he doesn’t want to sign off his name for all the village to see and he doesn’t want to sell his friends off. He ends up dying an honest man, while Elizabeth survives. Reverend Parris is eventually voted out of office and leaves Salem, while Abigail ran away long before that, most likely in order to avoid the wrath of all the other citizens of Salem.
Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam fall sick one day and when the doctor can’t find any medicine for the symptoms, rumors start to spread around Salem that it was done by witches. When they became sick, Reverend Parris had found them along with a bunch of other girls (including his niece Abigail Williams) dancing in the woods, while his slave Tituba was chanting things over a fire and a pot with some type of brew in it. Eventually, in order to keep certain occurrences in the woods a secret (like the fact that Abigail drank blood), Abigail blames Tituba for everything and says that Tituba had them all bewitched. However, once Abigail realizes that Tituba got to name people she saw with the Devil and people would take her word for it, Abigail decides to confess to dancing with the Devil and the other girls follow her lead. And with this newfound power, Abigail has a particular person in mind to accuse of witchcraft so that they can hang - Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail had an affair with John Proctor when she was a servant in his household. When his wife found out, she fired Abigail and since then Abigail has always seeked John out. Once Abigail successfully accuses Elizabeth of trying to kill her, it becomes up to John to save his wife
Intolerance: In The Crucible, religion and the state are as one. Thus,, sins and an individual's soul are used to determine their innocence, even in legal matters. Since they have a very black and white idea of what is wrong and what is right, those who do not conform to the ideas of their religion are seen as a threat to the public and to God. Those who are not "normal" are thought to be aligned with the Devil, which serves as the logic behind the witch trials. A person may either be a supporter of God or not exist at all. The witch trials are a manifestation of the town's unwillingness to allow those who are not pure to reside in the town.
Hysteria: The hysteria that enters the town as a result of the trials allows people to believe that the people they have always known are committing ridiculous crimes, including communing with the Devil, killing babies and stabbing others. Not only do they accept the hysteria, but some use the hysteria in order to lash out on others that they hate. Abigail uses the hysteria to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft so she can be with Proctor. Thomas Putnam also gets revenge on Francis Nurse by having his wife, Rebecca Nurse, sent to jail. He also gets many people accused so that he can buy up their land and increase his wealth. The hysteria allows many to enact revenge on others.
Reputation: Reputation is important to many in the town of Salem. As the conflict builds, it is clear that various people are afraid of being considered guilty through association with those that they know that are also accused of being guilty. As a result, many characters act in an attempt to preserve their reputation. For examples, Parris worries that Abigail and the hint of witchcraft surrounding his daughter's illness will lead to him being overthrown as a Reverend. Proctor also has a chance to stop the girls from gaining power in the beginning of the play, but he fears that testifying against Abigail will lead to confessing his affair with her, which would ruin his reputation. Proctor's desire to keep his reputation eventually leads him to make the choice to die rather than live and sign his name to an untrue confession of doing witchcraft. By refusing to tarnish his reputation, he dies with integrity.
Key Characters + Characterization:
John Proctor: John Proctor is the protagonist of the play. He is married to Elizabeth Proctor and has 3 sons. Although he appears to be an honest man, he had an affair with Abigail Williams, making him a hypocrite. He's not only a sinner but a sinner against his own views of decent conduct. He's also very considerate of his wife, such as when he adds salt to his soup and tells her that it was made perfectly anyway. He's clearly very guilt-stricken by what he has done against her, making him believe that his wife is constantly judging him. He lashes out at her for judging him, but she informs him that it is he who judges himself. He's also very dignified and self-conscious, which is why he works hard to maintain his reputation. This is obvious when he has to choose whether to confess to witchcraft or not. Even when given the choice between life and death, Proctor chooses to die if it means maintaining his reputation and dignity.
Abigail Williams: Abigail Williams is the antagonist of the play. She's 17 years old but she is extremely dangerous. She used to work for Proctor and had an affair with him while she worked for him. She's extremely resentful, as witnessed by her hatred for Elizabeth Proctor. She's also very controlling, menacing and threatening. For instance, she threatens her friends with death if they don't follow her story of what happened in the woods before Betty Parris got sick. She's also extremely clever and deceitful. When she realizes that confessing that she saw the Devil can give her power, she immediately grasps the chance. Most of all, she's determined and conniving. She goes to extreme lengths to have Elizabeth Proctor accused of witchcraft. She stabs herself in the stomach with a needle just because she knows that Mary Warren will give Elizabeth Proctor a doll with a needle in its stomach.
Literary Element #1: Motif
Literary Element #2: Irony
Abigail claimed to be "pure" and "holy" when she accused innocent people of witchcraft, yet she sent people to their deaths and had an affair with John Proctor: This is ironic because she sending people to their deaths and having an affair with a married man are questionable actions. These actions make Abigail seem less than holy and pure.
Abigail obtained this power so that she could be with John Proctor, yet Proctor ends up in jail because of her: This is ironic because Proctor does not end up with Abigail. Rather, he is eventually accused of witchcraft himself and ends up dead.
Children are usually thought of as innocent, yet they are the ones who are accusing others of witchcraft: This is ironic because children, particularly teenage girls, were the ones who were accusing innocent people of witchcraft. They were lying, witch essentially makes them not innocent. They should be guilty and they should be paying for their own crimes, yet they aren't. By lying and deflecting the blame, they are essentially guilty.
Hale was called into town to find the witches, yet he defends people in the end: This is ironic because by the end of the play, he's had a change of heart and is attempting to defend those being brought to trial. He basically goes completely against his initial reason for being there.
Empowerment: The witch trials empower various people in the town that didn't have power before. The social hierarchy at the time places women and children at the lowest rung of society, especially unmarried or black women. Since the Puritans fear the defiance of God, Abigail and the other girls' accusations of witchcraft take center stage in the town. Since they appear to be carrying out God's will, they gain power that is unconquerable. Tituba, whose status is lower than the girls' also manages to obtain a similar amount of power and deflects herself from blame by accusing others of witchcraft.
Accusations, confessions, and legal proceedings: There are various confessions and accusations even before the characters reach the courtroom. Parris accuses Abigail of dishonoring him. Giles Corey, Putnam and Proctor also make various accusations, some against one another and against other people in the town. The witch trials thrive on accusations since that is the only way that witches can be identified and are the only proof present in the court. Proctor attempts to break this cycle by admitting to his affair with Abigail. This confession is weaker than the accusation of witchcraft against him. This accusation needs a confession, but Proctor chooses to die rather than confess to a sin he didn't commit. The court eventually fails as their victims refuse to lie about who they are.
Point of View
This book is narrated by Gene Forrester in the first person. Gene Forrester tells the story of his teenage years while visiting Devon as an adult. This impacts the meaning of the novel because if becomes difficult to differentiate between the emotions of Gene as an adult and Gene as a teenager. Gene is also an unreliable narrator, even as an adult. We can tell he's unreliable since he seems keen to lie to others as a teenager (such as when he spoke with a fake southern accent to lie about where he lived) and does not reveal all his emotions in key areas of the book (such as when Phineas falls). This impacts the meaning because it displays how much the events of the novel must have impacted Gene since he has trouble relaying the information to the readers. It is possible that he still doesn't fully understand his own feelings during that time or still hasn't entirely accepted what occurred.
The boys at Devon create the Super Suicide Society. They play a lot of sports but don't do much schoolwork.
Gene jounces the branch of the tree, causing Phineas to fall and break his leg. He can never play sports again.
Gene tries to confess to jouncing the branch but Phineas won't listen.
Gene decides to train for the Olympics with Finny and receives a note from Leper. He visits Leper, who had gotten back from the army.
Brinker suspects that Gene has something to do with Finny's fall. He creates a court trial for Gene. Phineas falls again while trying to leave the trial.
Gene finds out that Finny has died and claims that his funeral felt like his own.
Betty Parris is found ill and there is no medical remedy.
Abigail tells Proctor that Betty was not being afflicted by witchcraft.
Abigail and the other girls that were with Betty when she got sick claim that it was the Devil's work. They accuse people of witchcraft and send them to jail and their deaths.
Elizabeth Proctor is accused of being a witch by Abigail.
John Proctor confesses to the court about his affair with Abigail in an attempt to save his wife. His wife lies for him so that he may keep his good name. This results in Proctor being accused of witchcraft and sent to jail.
Proctor is given the chance to save his life by confessing that he is a witch. He refuses to do so and dies with integrity.
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