The Crucible by Arthur Miller | Book Review

The timeless tale of a literal– and figurative– witch hunt.


The timeless tale of a literal– and figurative– witch hunt.

About the Book

Title: The Crucible

Author: Arthur Miller

Published: 1953

Series: (standalone)

Genre: classics, plays, historical fiction

My Rating: 5/5 stars

The Premise

Synopsis (from Goodreads) (truncated):

Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminates the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence

My Thoughts

This was the first book I was supposed to read in junior year but ending up having to read in the summer because of online school.

I technically did not READ The Crucible; I watched a performance on YouTube because I could only get the audiobook and figured I might as well just watch it as a play like it is meant to be viewed anyway.

The Crucible is a partially-fictionalized adaptation of the Salem Witch Trials and is meant as an allegory of the McCarthyism of the 50s.

When the town minister’s daughter falls ill after allegedly “dancing” in the forest a group of girls, the town immediately assumes the children were practicing witchcraft. Soon everyone is calling each other witches (the penalty for which is death) and no one knows what actually happened.

It only takes one unfounded accusation to get someone arrested, and for the accused, there are two choices: deny it and in doing so PROVE you’re a witch, or admit you’re a witch and save yourself by claiming someone ELSE cursed you and made you do it. When people begin weaponizing accusations and naming names to get the town’s suspicion off of them, everything escalates into disaster.

This play really makes you think about the danger of “guilty until proven innocent” mentality and mob rule. You can see how as the story progresses rational discussion is shot down in favor of clear answers and scapegoats. It’s very unsettling, yet easy to see this happening in a real town… because it did. 

The Salem Witch Trials are alluded to often in popular culture, because it is one of the most well-known mass hysteria incidents and “purity spirals.”

And this destructive social pattern has not been lost to history; perhaps the most clear 21st-century comparison to the events of The Crucible is none other than the infamous cancel culture.

I really enjoy books that are written as historical allegories, and this one is very interesting although quite unsettling in both its subject matter and its parallels to today.

The Verdict

So I’d recommend everyone read/watch/whatever The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It’s one of the better books I’ve read for school, even though I didn’t officially read it for school, and it’s also one of those books you should read at some point in your life. Don’t listen to the low Goodreads rating.

Have you read The Crucible? If so, what did you think of it?

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