The Crucible Characters: What You Need to Know for Your Literary Analysis

CLSC LIT TV (8:00 – 10:00 p.m.) – Survivor: Salem Edition (Reality. First aired 1953)

Abigail and friends are found dancing naked in the forest and are accused of witchcraft. They claim to be bewitched in an attempt to avoid a possible death sentence if convicted. In a vengeful move, Abigail accuses Elizabeth of practicing witchcraft. (Elizabeth fired Abigail for having an affair with her husband, John, and Abigail still holds a grudge and still wants to be with John.) Abigail denies the affair, both Elizabeth and John fight for their lives during trial, and John ultimately admits to adultery. But it does not end well for him (and many others in the community).

Sounds like a juicy new reality TV show, right?

Though The Crucible isn’t complete reality (and what reality show is?), the play is based on the Salem Witch Trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692–1693.

Like with any reality TV show, you need to know the basics about the characters before you can fully understand what’s going on.

Think of tuning in mid-season to Teen Mom, The Real Housewives of Miami, or Big Brother. You’ll have to do some catching up on plot lines to know who hooked up with who, who just got out of jail, and who just got in a fight.

While you’ll have to binge-watch on your own to catch up on actual reality TV, I’m here to help you catch up on the plot lines of five important The Crucible characters in Arthur Miller’s play.

I’ll even give you a few tips to help you write a literary analysis about the play.

5 The Crucible Characters You Need to Know for Your Literary Analysis

the crucible characters

Let me first start by saying that there are a lot of characters in this play, and I can’t possibly discuss all of The Crucible characters here. Instead, I’ll discuss five of the key players and their roles.

Character #1: John Proctor

John Proctor is like the reality show husband we love to hate. When we’re introduced to him, he seems like a nice enough guy. He’s hard working and seems to be respected by the community.

But he’s not all that.

Sure, he’s innocent of witchcraft, and sure, during trial he fights to save his wife, Elizabeth, from being sentenced to death. But his chivalrous deeds aren’t really chivalrous. He’s trying to save himself from being sentenced to death too.

And don’t let his show of love for his wife fool you into thinking he’s the perfect husband. After all, he did have an affair with Abigail, who, by the way, was only 17. (John was in his 30s.)

Spoiler alert: In the end, John ends up being convicted of witchcraft and is hanged for his crimes. (I guess there’s no chance of him returning for the reunion show.)

Example literary analysis essays about John Proctor

Character #2: Elizabeth Proctor

Elizabeth’s Twitter handle would be @GoodyProctor, and there’s a reason for it. She’s good—to a fault. She’s prim, proper, and of course, moral. She’d take praying over partying any day.

As viewers, we want to see her do something bad. Something. Anything—just to prove she’s a little bit more human.

Though we never see her do anything too terrible, we do witness Elizabeth’s cold and unforgiving nature. She holds steadfast to her morals and doesn’t forgive John for the affair with Abigail. (Of course, who’d blame her for not forgiving him, right?)

As it turns out, even Goody Proctor has a bit of a vengeful side too. She spreads a few nasty rumors around town about Abigail.

During the trial, Elizabeth shows her love for John by lying to the courts about his affair. It all backfires, though, as she ends up implicating her husband, and he’s sentenced to death.

In the end, Elizabeth finally forgives herself for being a cold and unloving wife and forgives John for the affair. Her execution is postponed because she’s pregnant.

In the world of reality TV, producers would have already tried to convince Elizabeth to star in a Widowed & Pregnant spin-off.

Example literary analysis essay about Elizabeth Proctor

the crucible characters

Character #3: Abigail Williams

Modern-day Abigail would spend a fair amount of time taking duck-face selfies and trying to garner more followers on Instagram. She’s a self-absorbed 17 year old who knows how to manipulate people when she needs to (and apparently, she needs to do so often).

Watching her is like driving by a car crash. You know there’s been destruction, and lots of it, but you don’t quite know how it happened. And worse yet, you can’t look away.

In the wake of Abigail’s destructive path are those who take the fall for her on the witchcraft accusations. Abigail pins the whole thing on Tituba (and a few others), but the irony of it all is that Abigail is the one who convinced the others to go out that night.

The Proctors’ marriage falls victim to Abigail’s manipulation too. She has an affair with the much older John Proctor. His wife, Elizabeth, isn’t too keen on forgiving either one of them.

After the affair ends, Abigail still wants nothing more than to be with John and wants Elizabeth out of the way. Abigail accuses people, including Elizabeth, of witchcraft, and Elizabeth is ultimately arrested.

In the end, Abigail realizes she can’t stay in the community, and she skips town, taking all of her uncle’s (Reverend Parris) money with her.

I’m guessing Abigail’s bad behavior is just bad enough for her to earn her own reality show.

Example literary analysis essays about Abigail Williams

Character #4: Reverend Samuel Parris

Though Reverend Parris is a reverend, he serves himself more than he serves the Lord.

He’s happy to have the spotlight on him, so starring in a reality show would be right up his alley. While he preaches hellfire and brimstone to his parishioners, his sermons often fall on deaf ears.

He pretty much knows how people feel about him. Yet because he’s so self-absorbed and concerned about creating his own place in the town, he makes things worse by continually believing that everyone’s out to get him.

And for a reverend, he’s not too honest, either. He lies about seeing the women dancing naked to save himself and his reputation. (After all, what would it look like if his own niece, Abigail, was convicted of witchcraft?)

Another not-so-redeeming quality about Parris is his sheer greed. He does anything he can for more money and never thinks he’s paid what he’s worth. (He probably wouldn’t return for a second season unless he could negotiate a much higher salary.)

Example literary analysis essays about Reverend Parris

Bonus: Example historical essay about Reverend Samuel Parris

the crucible characters

Character #5: Reverend John Hale

Reverend Hale is the resident expert. He’s intellectual. He’s a trained witch-hunter. And he thinks he’s all that.

He’s kind of like the mid-season replacement reality star who joins the show and claims he knows how to play the game better than everyone else. In the end, however, he’s no better than the rest of the cast.

Hale begins by wanting to do good and to expose those who are practicing witchcraft. The trial, however, leaves him broken. Compared to the beginning of the story, Hale no longer has the same beliefs in witchcraft, in the legal system, or perhaps, even in God.

In the end, he too believes that lying is the best route—if only to save one’s life.

Because Hale is so disillusioned, he has my vote for the cast member who would refuse to return for the next season.

Example literary analysis essays about Reverend John Hale

Writing Your Literary Analysis Essay

When it comes to writing about literature, there are all sorts angles to write about. Here are a few general ideas to consider when writing about The Crucible.

(Of course, make sure to check the assignment guidelines before you choose a topic):

  • Character analysis: Writing a character analysis means that you’ll focus your entire paper on one or two important aspects of a character, such as the manipulative nature of Abigail. To learn more about writing a character analysis, read How to Write a Character Analysis That Works.
  • Analyze the genre: The Crucible is an allegory for McCarthyism in the United States. Look for examples of how the witch hunts and witch trials parallel the hunt for communists.
  • Analyze theme: A theme is the underlying meaning of a work. It’s not necessarily what the piece is about. For example, The Crucible is about witch trials, but the themes of the play include good vs. evil, deceit, and the paranoia surrounding the witch trials.

You might also want to write your analysis focusing on another literary technique. Not sure which literary term to work with? Read 15 Literary Terms You Need to Know to Write Better Essays.

Of course, your analysis might take a different path. You might want to write a compare and contrast essay to compare The Crucible to another literary work, such as The Scarlet Letter. Or you might even compare The Crucible characters to characters in other works.

You could also compare The Crucible to its film adaptation. Of course, don’t forget that The Crucible is based on the real Salem Witch Trials, so you might compare the play to the actual historical events.

Stuck in Reruns?

the crucible characters

If you feel like you’ve written the same type of essay a few times and can’t seem to figure out how to improve your literary analysis skills, here are two posts to provide some additional guidance:

Once you’ve written the best essay you think you can possibly write, set it aside for a day or two and binge on your favorite show (or maybe do something else to take your mind off essay writing).

Stepping away from your paper for a while will allow you to see what works and, perhaps, what doesn’t work so well in your essay on The Crucible characters. It will also help you see where you need to revise your paper.

If you still need some help behind the scenes after you’ve drafted your essay, our editors can help you get your paper ready for prime time.

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