First, let me just say that I’m not a proponent of reading the classics just for the classics’ sake. Oliver Twist? The Old Man and The Sea? No, thank you. But I would strongly recommend reading The Crucible, as it has truly earned its place among the ranks of the great.
The Crucible is a play, and many would argue that it is best enjoyed in the form of a performance, whether that be on screen or on stage. Yet between watching the movie and reading the text, I much preferred taking it all in in the form of a book. Granted, I haven’t had the opportunity to see it live, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I would still prefer the book.
In case you didn’t know, The Crucible is a piece of historical fiction written during the Red Scare that centers on the Salem witch trials, and the main theme of the play is the drawing of comparisons between the two events. In doing this, we get to see the hysteria that develops around the accusations of witchcraft, and how the townspeople, and the court officials, use their religious beliefs to justify their persecution.
Now, Miller used this to draw comparisons to the arbitrary accusations that ruined careers during the Red Scare, but I prefer to think of the themes in a more modern context. There is no shortage of ways in which religion is used to rationalize oppression and mistreatment of peoples in contemporary society. There is an undeniable recurrence of events here, and Miller points out a troubling pattern of human behavior.
Personally, this is a theme that I am particularly drawn to, as it echoes those within my current writing. But if deep analysis of human nature isn’t quite your thing, there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy this book.
The dynamics between characters are extremely compelling and complex in this work, and there is so much more going on in addition to the main plotline. The play is exciting right from the beginning, starting out with questions just begging to be answered, and it grabbed my attention right away. Once I got going, I couldn’t put it down.
I’d highly recommend this book, but the one small drawback for me was the ending. I won’t spoil it, but it did feel like a bit of a let down after such a gripping, fast-paced story.