Justice in The Crucible

How does Miller handle the theme of justice in The Crucible and what message does he impart on the audience? The word 'justice' can be defined as rightfulness and lawfulness, although I interpret it's meaning in this case as 'fairness'. In the play The Crucible, Miller's message to the audience is that there will always be some kind of injustice and unfairness. The witch trials show injustice in a very obvious way. They condemned people to death by hanging without a fair trial and a lawyer to represent them at the trial.

Most of the injustice is centred around the court and the action of the judges who predetermine the fate of the accused by their closeness and regular attendance to church. Some of characters suffer a lack of justice, particularly the main character John Proctor. At the end of the play when John Proctor has been falsely accused of helping the devil, he refuses to sign his name to witchcraft on the public notice on the church door. He cries, "I have confessed myself it is enough", he doesn't want all the people of Salem to see his name signed to the false accusations.

Instead he did what he thought was right for himself and by refusing to admit his 'guilt' he was taken to be executed. If he had signed his name and admitted to the witchcraft, by being the scapegoat further accusations and executions would have come to an end, he would have saved his own life, but would have had to live with the lie and the mark on his character. Other characters in The Crucible were scared, especially the girls who danced in the woods. By frolicking in this manner, they were deemed to be conjuring spirits in order to cause harm to their enemies.

The act of dancing in this way was illegal and to avoid being whipped they gave a series of lives to keep out of trouble; their lies increased with magnitude and became more extreme. The Crucible is a well known allegory that is a story conveying another meaning. Miller wrote it to symbolize the events taking place in the USA during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is also a drama showing the injustice during the 17th Century in Salem, Massachusetts. In the USA, particularly April to December 1950, McCarthyism was taking over.

There was one main leader called Senator Joseph McCarthy who disliked communists and would imprison anyone who was believed to be a communist sympathizer. This is similar to the witch hunts in The Crucible. Abigail Williams was the main leader and had the power to convict anyone she believed worked with the devil or anyone who was linked to witchcraft; this could have led to imprisonment or hanging. Both cases show a fear of the unknown and distrusted that is witchcraft and communism. The only difference between the two is that a modern day person knows that witchcraft is a myth and communism is a recognized political ideology.

The people in The Crucible had been living in Massachusetts for only fifty years so they were still a relatively unsettled community. The court had created strict laws that the people had to follow in order to survive. Some of the laws were not that important, such as going to church every Sunday, not being allowed to work on Sundays and not being allowed to dance. Such trivial laws were used to condemn people suspected of witchcraft by not being religious. "He plough on Sunday, sir" Cheever said about Proctor, "We did dance… I'll be whipped if I must! " shouted Abigail.

The characters live in the fear of the unknown; they are taught to fear the Indians who live in the woods surrounding the village of Salem. "I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads" Abigail mentions in a threat to the girls. This shows that they are afraid of the outside and stay in their community for as much of the time as they can. When the play starts Miller used an example of a dramatic devise that is a subtlety used to portray a profound setting. Parris is in a "small upper bedroom" which is claustrophobic especially when many people are present.

The room has just one "narrow window" regulating the amount of light that can enter; this shows a form of control. When the play begins Parris is kneeling down praying, the characters assume he is asking God for the good health of his daughter but in fact he is putting on an act. The only thing Parris is truly concerned about is his reputation as a Reverend, and whether his household is the centre of "some obscene practice", witchcraft. Throughout act one we see people coming into this miniature room and leaving it, this creates a stronger feeling of claustrophobia.

Later on in the play, John Proctor arrives home from work and tastes his wife's soup and seasons it to his liking without her noticing, he then comments "It's well seasoned". This also shows dramatic irony as the audience or reader knows more than the characters. Each of the scenes is set somewhere different, but each setting is inside. Act one is set in Parris' House, act two is set in Proctors House, act three is set in the Court and act four is set the prison cell. In The Crucible we only ever hear of the outside, which exaggerates the fear of the unknown, being the outdoors.