The Crucible and the New Neanderthals         The Crucible by Arthur

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The Crucible and the New Neanderthals The Crucible by Arthur Miller relates to many topics other than what would seemingly be the prevailing topic; that being the Salem witch trials. One should know that Miller wrote the classic play to not only show what happened in those times, but also to show his anger towards the United States and their blind finger pointing due to the McCarthy trials taking place around that time (1952). Of course, this does not really relate to a person living in 2002. However, there are several issues dealt with in The Crucible that are relevant to a common person living in the new millennium today.

In this modern age several people still believe in witches similar to the people portrayed in The Crucible. However, while they still believe that the witches exist, most people if they were ever to encounter one of these "witches" would more than likely not attempt to kill them, or even accuse them of witchcraft.

Face it, in this day and age there are certainly a lot of strange people. If these kinds of people were around in the 1600's they would be hung or burned without the blink of an eye. So why does this play have significance to this society? For one to understand this, one must try to read between the lines and see what Miller is really saying to us. Miller knows that people are not going to be put on trial for practicing witchcraft simply because our world sees this sort of practice as a type of act. No one could possibly believe that they are really, "writing their names in the Devil's book". Still there are so many moral issues within the book that can be compared to the moral issues in 1952, or even 50 years later here in 2002. The character, John Proctor is a seemingly moral man who loves his wife very much and attends church as much as every normal person in Salem. Unfortunately for John he has a secret which in a time like 1692 would almost certainly destroy him. After having an affair with Abigail Williams , his wife Elizabeth finds about the entire ordeal. John and Elizabeth stay together, but the knowledge of the affair certainly separates the two in an unspoken bitterness. The problem is not fixed until John admits it fully to the court and is eventually killed because of the lie his loving wife told to save him. Only then was the conscience of John freed because he knew he had finally been true and had cleaned the slate so to speak in his own mind. This is no different than anyone living in a small place like Red Deer. While a person would more than likely not be killed for having an affair, a person would almost certainly have a burning conscience for doing what they did. In this respect, the characters in The Crucible are really quite similar an average person one might see on a street corner. Basically it would appear that Miller through and through is trying to tell us that we are no different.

Throughout the ages, people have always looked upon others in times before them to be somewhat barbaric. This society is probably the worst for committing that crime. The fact remains though; people are only as smart as their technology. Apparently in 1692 a type of bread was made that was a form of LSD (a hallucinogenic drug). Many people in that time claimed to have seen witches flying about, when really this was more than likely just a person experiencing a bad trip from some bread. How were they to know better? While it may be easy to say for us that they were buffoons or what have you, in a few hundred years our society will be laughed at because of something which we think now is normal, but to the future may seem ridiculous and absurd. Think about it - we as a society have yet to come up with a cure for a disease such as cancer. However, in time it may be that someone can find a cure for cancer which will lead that era of people to look back and laugh at us as if we were Neanderthals trying to light fires. Because of this reason, one should not look back on the Salem witch trials with a holier-than-thou perspective and look at them in such a negative light. They were only doing what they truly believed would be best.

Well, not everyone thought it was best by the end of the book. Some characters such as Reverend John Hale know that he has done wrong and attempts to do what he can to rectify the situation. Of course, if one has read the play one would know this does not happen in the happiest sense. At one point John Proctor says to Hale in a fit of rage, "Pontius Pilate! God will not let you wash your hands of this!" Towards the end of the book Hale knows that he has signed to the deaths of several innocent people and even states to Judge Danforth, "There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!" This of course is an allusion to the bible wherein Pontius Pilate attempts to wash his hands of the crucifixion of Christ. Hale knows that he has done wrong and desperately wants to save the situation and himself. He fails in doing so. Miller is trying to show that Hale is really a good man who was mislead and inevitably wants to do the right thing, and really, is no different than 2002. For instance, the premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein at one point recently spoke harsh words towards a group of people at a homeless shelter. Shortly afterwards, Klein attempted to clear himself of what he had done after realizing the mistake he made, but it will forever be known the performed such an act. That is not to say that Klein is a bad man, just misguided from time to time; exactly like Reverend John Hale.

Arthur Miller was a very smart man. He knew that while the play The Crucible is about the Salem witch trials, he knew that the themes presented in it could be related to forever. Most people in 2002 are the same as the people of Salem. Maybe we are not so superstitious, but we are definitely just as misguided and naïve as the people portrayed in 1692. That is not to say that people 300 years from now won't also be misguided and naïve though. Hopefully they can read The Crucible and understand that every culture is just as smart as they can be, and try not poke fun at us because of our barbaric ways.