Untraditional Drama Conventions
Does an author always have to stick to conventions in writing? A dramatic convention is an unrealistic element in a literary work that is accepted by readers or viewers because it is traditional. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller deviates from traditional drama conventions in his telling of the Salem Witch Trials. He does not use scenes and uses a narrative technique more than stage directions throughout the play. A conventional play typically includes scenes dividing an act.
However, Arthur Miller includes only one scene in the play, Act Two, Scene 2. In this scene, John Proctor meets with Abigail in the woods at night. John warns her that if she does not tell the court that she is “blind to spirits”(152), he will reveal the truth about their affair. Miller omits this scene from the play because he wants to portray Abigail as a selfish, heartless person who is manipulating others and is aware of her lies. However, the reader can sense that Abigail truly believes in witchcraft and has feelings for John in this scene.
She says that she will “scrub the world clean”(150) from all the hypocrites and liars. She even tells John how good of a wife she will be. This makes the reader sympathize with Abigail because she is clearly insane and believes she is right. Miller uses long paragraphs of prose to describe the setting, introduce characters, and provide background information on the characters and the time period. For example, in Act One, Miller writes:”Mrs. Putnam-who is now staring at the bewitched child on the bed…”(26).
In a conventional play, a character’s feelings and movements would be included in the stage directions. However, Miller uses limited stage directions. Instead, he chooses to include these narrative passages to provide the reader with a better understanding of the characters and setting. It also helps the reader foreshadow what is going to happen. For instance, Miller talks about Thomas Putnam’s “vindictive nature”(14) and how he “had Burroughs jailed for debts the man did not owe”(14).
This helps the reader predict that Mr. Putnam will make false accusations during the witchcraft trials. Arthur Miller cleverly uses untraditional drama conventions in this play. Choosing to do so helps him manipulate the reader’s feelings toward characters and events. Also, it makes the setting clearer and describes the circumstances. Miller helps the reader make assumptions about what the characters will do in the play based on the background information he provides.