This is one of the books that I am considering teaching to my sophomores. I hadn’t read it before and struggled to get through the Introduction. Too bad I didn’t skip it or read it last.I really, really liked this book. For those of you who haven’t read it, it is a play not a novel. It is set in Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials and is based on historical facts. It is the story of persecution and personal responsibility.
Miller wrote The Crucible during the time of McCarthyism. It was his statement about the search and prosecution of those accused of Un-American Activities. The parallels are obvious for those who are aware of the American History from the 1950’s.
However, I think that students (especially my students) will need a history lesson prior to teaching this book: history of the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism and the House Committee of Un-American Activities.
All of that being said, it was a fairly easy read. If you don’t worry about the allegory, the story is straight forward and easy to understand. The story focuses on the accusations of young girls regarding witchcraft and the trials of those accused (who would not “repent” and name others). The “conflict” in the story is one of internal conflict as one of the main characters deliberates accusing others of witchcraft to avoid the penalty of death, even though he knows they are innocent. It is a very human dilemma – to falsely accuse someone, even though you know of their innocence, to save yourself.
It isn’t a book that I would have picked up to read. However, I am glad that I did and I very well may teach it this year.