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The Crucible Through the Marxist Lens

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S. Fung

on 7 May 2014

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Transcript of The Crucible Through the Marxist Lens

Argument 1:
The public servants of Salem choose to exploit the citizens in pursuit of their materialistic desire to maintain their position as bourgeoisie.

The Crucible

Through the Marxist Lens
Socratic circle
1. What is power? How does it affect our lives?
2. How does theology come into play with power?
3. Is it human nature to exploit people in a lower position of power?
4. Are we born into a constant struggle of power?
5. Do you agree that everyone should constantly hold an equal amount of power?
6. What role does sexual repression plays in power struggles according to the play?
7. Where did power come from? Is it a necessity?
Discuss the following questions as a class
Presented by Jolian Hung, Ke Deng, Basil Khan, Alizeh Haider and Stefanie Fung

Putnam vs Proctor
Putnam is the clearest example of a normal townsperson taking advantage of the situation for his own materialistic gains, while Proctor is almost the exact opposite, choosing instead to resolve the problem.
"So it is not surprising to find that so many accusations against people are in the handwriting of Thomas Putnam…" (15)

"Proctor: In your bounds! I bought that tract from Goody Nurse's husband five months ago.
Putnam: He had no right to sell it. It stands clear in my grandfather's will that all the land between the river and--"(32)

"Francis: For murder, she's charged! 'For the marvelous and supernatural murder of Goody Putnam's babies.' " (71)

"Giles: My proof is there! If Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit up his property-that's law! And there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for their land!" (96)

- Seeks to attain more power through materialistic gains such as land
- Sees the situation at hand, takes full advantage and uses it against his enemies
- Completely merciless, Putnam condemns several to death for land

Power in Fear
Power in Faith
Who do you think had power over these?
What do you think is materialism? What does it include?
Did you feel scared when you watched these scenes?
Fear itself is power:
trying to prove irrational things require irrational methods- and that gives the person who can manipulate it
immense power.
Note: You can think of 'religion' as being a general societal belief.

political policy is equated with moral right
, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence. Once such an equation is effective, society becomes a congerie of plots and counter plots, and
the main role of the government changes from that of the arbitrator to that of the scourge of God

Those in power in either law or religion, their words become as if God himself spoke it.
They have the power of God on their side
Danforth, in a position as an upholder of justice, goes against justice in order to maintain his status and reputation.
Hale, in contrast, through his continuous desire to preserve righteousness, proves that it is a choice to pursue power.

Parris, a follower and leader of the Christian faith, went against it to retain money and respect in society.

Motive: Truth and Religious Purity
Motive: Money and Respect
Motive: Status and Reputation
Relate it back to the Crucible, The Red Scare, or any other situations you think relate
And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature?
Quote 2
“The pure heart need no lawyer, proceed as you will”(93).

Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character" (11)
For twenty week he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks until he had them (65)

And seventy-two condemned to hang by that signature?
Excellency, I have signed seventy-two death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be proof s0 immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it (99)
Excellency, it is a natural lie to tell; I beg of you, stop now before another is condemned! I may shut my conscience to it no more- private vengeance is working this testimony! From the beginning this man has struck me true. By my oath to Heaven I believe him now, and I pray you call back his wife before we- (114)
Thomas Putnam
- Wealthy landowner
- Greedy and ruthless nature
- Very materialistic (sees wealth and land as power)

- Thomas Putnam in land wars with multiple people, most importantly the Nurse family
- Often sues others in courts for more material gains
People will go through immoral measures
to maintain or achieve a position of power.

However, there is
An element of choice

- George Jacobs and Rebecca Nurse are both accused by Putnam's family
- implied that Putnam told his daughter to do so
- knowing his character it's very likely that he also did this for his own reasons

John Proctor
- Mostly honourable
- Very respected man in his prime
"Proctor: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I like and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! Hot may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" (143)

"Proctor: I have known her [Abigail], sir, I have known her.
Danforth: You are a lecher?" (110)

- Very concerned with his reputation
- Chooses to give it up to right the situation
- in the end still would rather die with what's left of his name

Start-Up Activity:
Discussion Questions
1. What is the objective of the game? And how is this objective usually obtained?
2. When more people were added on one side of the rope, how did that affect the results? How can this relate to the bourgeoisie and the proletariat?
3. How is power struggle evident in
The Crucible
? Using the idea of the tug-of-war game, create an analogy about the power struggle in
The Crucible.
The Story Behind the Salem Witch Trials:
The Root of Trouble
February 1692 - September 1692
All started because of the strange behaviour of Betty Parris, daughter of Samuel Parris <- in reality, he had a wife named Elizabeth, which was not mentioned in the play
The reasons for Betty's behaviours was either:
stress, child abuse, delusional
convulsive ergotism -> injesting rye that was infected with ergot
ergot is caused by a fungus that appears on developing kernels of rye grain. Symptoms include violent fits, crawling sensations on the skin, hallucinations. LSD is a derivative of ergot.
witchcraft -> At that time, it was easy to buy that idea since an Indian war was nearby. It was believed that the devil was near and had caused Betty to act that way.

The Story Behind the Salem Witch Trials:
The Trials
At the hearing for the accused, the magistrates had already viewed the accused as guilty
Abigail and the girls' accusations and performances, were greatly believed by the public
By fall, Salem began to doubt witchcraft, after having so many respectable people accused. The hunt was then stopped, and those in prison were released
In the end, 19 "witches" were hanged, and Giles Corey (80 year old) was pressed by heavy stones

The outcome of one during the tragic event (whether they were guilty or not), depended on their economic situation at that time, and their opinion in the congregational disagreement.

The accused were better off financially than the accusers.

The accusing families wanted to gain property from the accused. Both groups were also on opposite sides of the strife.
- Complete opposite of Putnam
- Seeks to maintain power through his name and reputation
- Chooses death instead of losing more power

When being told that there is evidence that witchcraft does not exist,
Danforth's first instinct, as a bourgeoisie, is not to have this evidence brought forth, but to consider the repercussions this new turn of events would have on his status and his reputation.
He ignores the fact that he is letting innocent people get killed in pursuit of this. He even goes as far as to ignores court protocol and does not let Proctor get a lawyer.

Through their choices:
- Putnam is able to achieve a greater position of power
-Proctor loses almost everything
Is it better to die with a solid reputation like Proctor or live wealthy and disliked like Putnam?
This also highlights the Marxist concept of
Danforth, being a bourgeoisie (controls the production of law), manipulates people to abide by him and his beliefs.
History of the Play:
In the Times of Arthur Miller
Parris 's motive from the start was to get people to respect him- it was not to preach religion and goodness as his position dictates. One can also recognize this as the reason why he constantly changed his position in witchcraft.

1. In the very beginning, when confronting Abigail, he is against witchcraft for it will be affect his high position.
2. When the blame was put on someone else, he encouraged the hangings because his enemies, such as Procter, were being rid of.
Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915 and was recognized as a successful playwright through his works
Death of a Salesman
The Crucible
All My Sons
, etc.
The play,
The Crucible
, was written in 1953 (which was during the time of the early Cold War), and was a fictional retelling of the 1692 Salem witch trials.

3. In the end when there were rumors of revolts extending from Andover to Salem due to the hangings, he is against witchcraft because people would blame him for his involvement in it.
All the while he disregards any effect his
decisions may have on the proletariats,
enforcing Marx's teachings of the corruption
and disregard for the proletarians that the bourgeoisie have.
Miller went to Salem, Massachusetts to research about the trials
The play was written as Miller could relate the activities of the events of the House Un-American Activities Committee, a committee that investigated the rebellious activities of those that might have Communist ties, to the Salem witch trials.
The work is seen as an example of McCarthyism (accusing others of disloyalty/rebellious actions without supporting evidence). The word "McCarthyism" originated from America's Second Red (Communism) Scare.
The work was symbolic to the events of the time when Miller wrote the play: the witch trials representing the anti-Communist "witch hunts", where they targeted citizens as Communists.
McCarthyism - Originated from the actions of Senator McCarthy. During the time that Communist countries had taken hold of Eastern Europe and China, Americans became worried. Their fear also grew with the rumour of US government officials secretly being communists. McCarthy used this fear, and started to charge people with subversion. He then prosecuted them for selling secrets to Communist governments.
Our Literary Lens:
The Marxist Lens
Hale is in a similar position as Danforth and Parris; many had suffered because of him and should he be wrong in his claims, there would be serious repercussions; he would lose his status, his reputation, respect, authority- he would be risking his bourgeoisie status. Yet he still wanted to know whether his accusations were correct. This reveals that the blinding desire for power is not inherent nor is it natural- it is something one chooses to breed as their priority and a path one consciously chooses to take.
Arthur Miller’s
The Crucible
, reveals how general members of society will do anything to attain or maintain a position of power and status amongst the bourgeoisie while a few will go through great lengths to remain true to their faith; ultimately revealing that the act of trying to achieve a higher position in life, at the cost of others, is a choice.
How do you think theocracy plays into
Danforth's desire to maintain his reputation?
Why is reputation and name so important in a theocratic society?
Argument 2:
What do you think was Danforth's
materialistic motivation for obtaining
Karl Marx has influenced our ideas of the working force and capital.
Marx believed that Economic Determinism, Dialectical Materialism and Class Struggle helped to explain his theories.
All social, cultural, political and intellectual forms are determined by economic factors
Tension existing in a society due to competing desires between different classes of people
Why do you think Parris kept changing
his position on the witch trials?
From being for it,
To against it,
To for it again?
Combines dialectics and materialism; it is a way of understanding reality through thoughts, emotions, or the material world
His theory also included about the idea of the bourgeoisie (the owners of production) and the proletariat (the labourers who produce wealth for the owners) who try to take control of roles through great actions
The idea of Marxist Criticism is that the work of literature can be analysed as a piece of history, which displays the social situation that the author is currently living in, can be represented through the types of characters developed, the political ideas shown, and the economic situation in the literature.
Argument 3:
Abigail Williams vs. Mary Warren
Abigail Williams
"I want to open myself! . . . I want the light of God; I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osborn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!"
Things Abigail had done wrong:
1. She was one who started the whole witchcraft scenario and ironically she was the one blaming everyone else.
2. She had an affair with John Proctor.
Who is she?
- Villain in
The Crucible
- Wants complete control over everything
- Manipulative, cunning, vengeful; a strong leader
- Low class
We need to realize that Abigail was just waiting for an opportunity to gain power.
Mary Warren
Who is she?
- Enjoys the power she has when she becomes part of the court
- Doesn’t know what is good and what is bad for her; has good intentions but is misinformed about the whole situation
- Fears Abigail
Marry Warren is constantly changing her stance to wanting power and doing bad and sacrificing herself and staying true to her faith and morals.
- In the Puritan society, they have no status/power, but....
Did these two girls have the choice to pick their paths?
Who believes that Abigail and Marry Warren had to do this to become higher class in the puritan society?
After bottling up all human desires was this just a way for these girls to get freedom and get a higher status in society?
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