by Arthur Miller
(adapted for film)
In a film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play, Jean-Paul Sartre, a renown French existential philosopher, interprets the American play. The Crucible is set in Salem Massachusetts during America’s colonial period, but the playwright debuted the work on Broadway in January 22, 1953, according to The New Yorker.
The fictional narrative focuses on the relationship between John Proctor and his adolescent mistress Abigail Williams. Proctor, a hardworking farmer, discovers, Abigail and several other girls from the village dancing around a fire, a blasphemous act according to the townspeople. The result of his discovery lands him and others in court during which Abigail claims that she was under the influence of witchcraft at the time that she had been dancing, which launches a full-scale witch hunt.
In an act of self-preservation, she along the other girls accused, redirect the allegations of witchcraft to other people within the village. During this time, Abigail affirms a position of power after John Proctor resists her advances. Although she falsifies her identity with the claim that she was possessed, her character is actually edging towards womanhood in a culture that oppresses female agency so much so that dancing by fire is considered taboo.
This text is included in the California Department Dept of Education’s recommended reading. Personally, the historical and cultural context of Miller’s play (and Satre’s film adaptation) are what make the narrative meta-textually fascinating, as it was produced during the McCarthy era; a time in which the fear of communism held political power in the United States House of Representatives. From playwright Arthur Miller, to actor Charlie Chaplin, to singer Paul Robeson, many in Hollywood and Broadway were affected by allegations made by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Written: Los Angeles, CA, 2019. | Edited [Eugene, OR]