Arthur Miller's classic parable of mass hysteria draws a chilling parallel between the Salem witch-hunt of 1692 - "one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history" - and the McCarthyism which gripped America in the 1950s. The story of how the small community of Salem is stirred into madness by superstition, paranoia and malice, culminating in a violent climax, is a savage attack on the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations.
An absolute banger
Aside from its literary themes, the reason why The Crucible is actually a good play is because it's interesting and well-written. The story is intriguing and really absorbing, the pacing keeps it fresh and the details are clear. But most importantly, it's filled with great events that will evoke strong responses from you. For an author writing about populist exploitation, its fitting that he's really good at manipulating you into feeling particular ways about certain characters – whether it's hatred or pity. An absolute banger; 100% would recommend.
Written in the 1953, when being angry at Communists was all the rage (pun intended), it draws neat parallels between the Salem Witch hunts and the MacCarthyist fervour, both of which thrived on fear and demagoguery. But really, it's a scathing indictment about how people are terrible at being tolerant – whether it's to women or communists – because the concept of “listening to your feelings” has gone too far, with rationality and evidence-based reasoning becoming optional extras that get discarded with no mercy.
If you liked this book, you would also (probably) enjoy John Patrick Stanley or Tennessee Williams
- Andrew, QBD Canberra Centre
Reviewed by 55ST
Arthur Miller's take on the history of the Salem witch trials is fact woven through fiction and he does not alter the outcome of actual American history in writing this play, he merely jazzes up the circumstances in which Salem fell into complete and utter hysteria. Adding in a little more scandal enabled Miller to produce characters of great variety and color. Standout characters for me were John and Elizabeth Proctor, the Reverends Paris and Hale, Giles Corey and Abigail Williams, who has managed to make her way onto my literary hit list. She is one of the foulest characters I have come across to date. I REALLY disliked her, she is a child trying to desperately to be a woman and she is a constant and filthy liar. For me, this play is a great exploration of the concept of hysteria, especially when you take into account the character of Mary Warren.The Crucible is arguably Miller's most famous work and its depth and intelligent writing are an enduring testament to the talent possessed.
QBD the bookshop, 31/07/2014