Friday, January 09, 2009
The Crucible...random thoughts
The Crucible by Arthur Miller.
I first read this play decades ago (decades...sheesh!), back when I was in 8th grade. I loved it then, and I still love it today. (Eighth grade was actually a very good year in reading assignments, with winners like The Crucible, The Lord of the Flies, The Pearl, and Flowers for Algernon. It wasn't until high school that they threw in torturous assignments like the reading of Babbitt.) Anyway, The Crucible. For our literature unit this quarter, Annie and I are focusing on plays. So, what better play to start than with my very favorite. (Of course, I've probably read less than ten plays all told, and most of those have been Shakespeare. Nonetheless, this is my favorite.)
Why is it my favorite? (Aside from that thing about me not having many to choose from, that is.) For one thing, the Salem witch trials have always fascinated me. Oh yeah, in case you didn't know, that's what this play is about. A work of historical fiction, I suppose. Miller did fuse a few of the real people together to create certain characters, and of course, dramatic license was used. But the story is essentially the true story of the events in Salem in 1692. (And yes, of course, everyone is never going to agree completely on what happened. Wild theories will always abound, etc.)
But it's more than a simple look at history. It's a look at "witch hunts" in the general sense. Miller wrote this at the time of McCarthyism in the U.S., and this play can certainly be seen as an allegory. Annie and I discussed that a bit, but honestly we focused more on the paradox of the Puritan beliefs and their behavior. (Which is a kind of nice tie-in with our history studies at the moment, looking at the Pequot War.) How could a society so "God-fearing" and pious ultimately treat people so horrendously. The townspeople of Salem are definitely brimming with human frailties, as all people are. But how did they go from these "God-fearing" people to essentially murderers?
The version we read also had commentary by Miller mixed in. It was quite interesting to see his view of the characters, in his own words, in addition to how we saw them brought to life through the play. There was also an appendix, a scene he'd originally written for the play but decided to leave out as he felt it destroyed the flow. He stated that he really wished he could come up with a way to work it in. I wish he could have, too...as it really does change slightly the way I viewed one of the characters. But I don't want to give away too much there.
Okay, so if you've been here before, you know already how much I despise my so-called book reviews, right? Despite how sweet you all are about them, I just feel like a phony. I have no analytical skills whatsoever. Face it, I seldom leave anyone with a clue as to what the book is even about. Well, guess what. I've come up with a solution! Now, I will no longer feel like I'm trying to fool anyone. I will no longer label these posts as "book reviews"...henceforth, they will be known as "book babble." Perfect, I'd say, as that is an honest look at what I really do...babble.
And hey, I think I'm going to use this as one of my 21 Cultures reads. It definitely showcased the culture of the Puritans in early New England. You don't think that's cheating, do you?