Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Crucible: Analytical Response Plan
HSC-style question 1
Despite an individual’s desire to belong to a group or community, this is not always possible.
How do the texts you have studied represent the processes and results of belonging and/or not belonging?
In your answer, refer to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your choosing.
See other analytical response plan posts for how to write an analytical response plan.
Texts: The Crucible and ‘Berla Hill’
[The Crucible is one of the prescribed texts for the HSC. ‘Berla Hill’ is a short piece of creative writing by Shelley McNamara, which is on this blog. It is used here as a related text.]
Analytical response plan
Belonging to a community or group is complicated. Societies are made up of complex rules and codes of behaviour, determined by those in power, which the members of the society are expected to adhere to. However this is not always possible, especially when an individual’s values oppose those values of people in positions of power. When the dominant values in society and the processes of administering the law are fundamentally flawed and corrupt, it is difficult for the individual to remain true to their own sense of morality. In ‘The Crucible’, by Arthur Miller, hysteria caused by accusations of witchcraft destroys the community, creating mistrust and fear and the struggle to belong securely in family groups . Similarly, in the short piece of creative writing ‘Berla Hill’, the hypocrisy of the council’s practice of governing is exposed through the death of innocent children, undermining the secure foundation of the society they purport to provide.
First body paragraph
In ‘The Crucible’, hysteria plays a significant role in destroying the sense of belonging within the community of Salem, compromising people’s security within their households and faith in dominant values within the society.
The fervour of accusations destroys logic in the community.
Miller is critical of the hysteria, as it leads to innocent people being accused.
Miller and his friends were accused of having pro-communist beliefs.
Accusations are based on grudges, not truth.
Hale urges Danforth to postpone the hangings as Salem is on the verge of rebellion.
‘She thinks to kill me, then to take my place’
Second body paragraph
In an act of redemption and rebellion, John Proctor overcomes the oppression of belonging to a corrupted society by adhering to the principles of honour and dignity.
Elizabeth tells Proctor that Corey Giles refused to confess to witchcraft and was crushed to death by stones.
Proctor laments that he is not a good man and can’t go to the gallows a martyr.
Proctor asks for Elizabeth’s forgiveness.
Proctor confesses to witchcraft, but refuses to sign the confession as it will condemn innocent people.
Proctor refuses to sign the confession as he will compromise his reputation.
Act of ‘judging’ is used to symbolise the corruption of the law
He goes to the gallows redeemed.
‘mount the gibbet like a saint’
‘dust on the feet of them that hanged’
‘I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another’
‘He have his goodness now’
Third body paragraph
In ‘Berla Hill’, the forced unity and sense of belonging of the community is juxtaposed with the corruption and hypocrisy of the council, which has caused the death of innocent children.
The composer uses an ironic tone when writing about the building of the new council chambers and the community’s mandatory financial contributions.
The children fall ill and are buried at the back of the council chambers instead of the churchyard.
The green sterilising fluid from the drain is the cause of these deaths.
A young boy is found dead in the river, finally exposing the corruption.
‘splendid addition to our fine city’
‘green sterilising fluid flushing out unwanted waste’
To defy the established order in any given society is not an easy task. The desire to belong to a community and follow expected moral codes is so strong that it can lead people to compromise their own integrity and values. ‘The Crucible’ explores the difficulties that can result when an individual refuses to yield to the corruption of values in a society in order to simply belong. The ease with which individuals can be manipulated by those in authority is represented in ‘Berla Hill’, showing that corruption leads to instability and a lack of desire to belong in a society that is fundamentally flawed by those in power.
In ‘The Crucible’, hysteria plays a significant role in destroying the sense of belonging within the community of Salem, compromising people’s security within their households and obscuring faith in dominant values within the society. The process of enacting revenge is symbolically represented through the fervour of accusations of witchcraft, which destroy all logic and allow people in Salem to believe normally upstanding members of the community have been involved in heinous activities, such as killing babies and communing with the devil. Miller, having been accused of being a communist along with many of his friends, is critical of this hysteria. Despite some of his characters’ legitimate fear of witchcraft, the fervour surrounding their accusations leads to innocent people being accused of wrongdoing to satisfy vengeful grudges. Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft in order to seek revenge, as Elizabeth acknowledges when she says, Abigail ‘thinks to kill me, then to take my place’. Thomas Putnam seeks revenge on Francis Nurse by accusing his wife, Rebecca, of murdering Ann Putnam’s babies through supernatural means. In Act Four, Reverend Hale reports that the town is in great confusion because of the hysteria, using visual images of homeless orphans wandering the street, abandoned cattle and rotting crops. Judge Danforth refuses to postpone the hangings of innocent people, however, ironically stating that it would be unjust to pardon people when others have already been hanged for the same crime. A previously cohesive community is now on the verge of rebellion, as no one knows who the next victim of the hysteria will be.
In an act of redemption and rebellion, John Proctor overcomes the oppression of belonging to a corrupted society by adhering to the principles of honour and dignity. In the last scene of the play, Elizabeth is urged by Reverend Hale to speak with Proctor in the hope that she can get her husband to confess to witchcraft. Instead, Elizabeth’s visual image of Giles Corey being crushed to death by having stones placed on his chest forces Proctor to consider his own personal truth. Even on the brink of death, Giles Corey refused to tarnish his reputation and stood mute so that he could die a Christian under the law. Proctor laments that he is not a good man and cannot ‘mount the gibbet like a saint’, the simile being used to compare the honour of characters like Corey with Proctor’s own blemished past. Proctor thinks that if he goes to the gallows as a martyr it would be a falsehood as he is not worth the ‘dust on the feet of them that hanged’—others who have not sinned as he has. In the end, he refuses to sign the confession as it will condemn innocent people: ‘I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another’. The act of ‘judging’ is used to symbolically represent the irony of the legal proceedings during the witch trial, which led to innocent deaths. Proctor, an ordinary man, acts honourably by refusing to ‘judge’ others, while the law does not. Proctor was at first willing to give his soul through his confession, but refuses to compromise his reputation for the sake of belonging to a corrupt society, maintaining his dignity in the face of death. As he goes to the gallows, Elizabeth observes that ‘he have his goodness now’.
In ‘Berla Hill’, the forced unity and sense of belonging of the community is juxtaposed with the corruption and hypocrisy of the council, which has caused the death of innocent children. The system of governing, which led to the development of a new council chamber building, becomes the reason for the destruction of the community’s sense of security and trust in authority. The composer establishes an ironic tone about the new building the community has been forced to pay for as part of their ‘civic responsibility’. The community was assured that the chambers would be a ‘splendid addition’ to the ‘fine city’, not only because of the stonework in the building, but through the construction of a youth centre designed to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble. However, there is a suggestion of a cover-up, created through the visual images of small children suddenly falling ill and dying. The image of their burial at the back of the council chambers instead of in the churchyard symbolises the council’s cover-up. When it becomes obvious that the ‘green sterilising fluid’ is actually the cause of these deaths, the council members try to preserve the enforced sense of community and continue with the pretence of celebration for the opening of the new council chambers. The composer’s sceptical tone is shown through the councillors’ claim that they are nevertheless ‘God-fearing Christians’. When a young boy slips through his mother’s arms at the opening ceremony and is found dead in the river, the corruption and hypocrisy of those in authority is finally exposed. The composer is highlighting that belonging securely in a society is dependent upon the honest practices of those who have the power to manipulate that society.