The Use of Literary Devices to Depict the Power Characters and Their Feelings in The Crucible, a Play by Arthur Miller

Normality is the halfway point between the perfected personas people portray, and the genuine truths that people hide. It is rare nowadays to wander into the most intimate corners of someone’s mind, and to bare witness of people’s most truthful feelings. Mask-wearing and secret-bearing are what humans are, but in many ways, their secretive selves are reflections of the complexities of modern society. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible takes place in a time of a much greater simplicity, in a community where exposing your honest truth is a value of basic morality.

The nature of the work, being one of performance, can allow the viewer to observe a genuineness natural to plays. Through the use of intense diction, 17th Century idioms, and hyperbolic expressions the play shows a genuine depiction of its characters and their powerful feelings.

Through the use of intense diction, Miller’s The Crucible shows a genuine depiction of the powerful feelings and thoughts of its characters.

In Act One, Abigail declares to John Proctor, “I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near!” (Miller 22). The use of the words “know” and “clutched” have such intensity during this line and allow the passage to truly emphasize the passionate feelings John has for Abigail, or at least how Abigail perceives them. The use of “clutched” as such an emotive word highlights Abigail’s belief that John desperately needs and lusts her.

Upon revealing her thoughts to Proctor, Abigail tries to show him a truth that he cannot see: a truth that he chooses not to see.

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She exposes her truest and deepest hopes by admitting her love for him and by imploring him to stop concealing his own love. She uses the word “know” because she refuses to accept the possibility that Proctor does not love her. Abigail feels a heart-consuming love for him, and this causes her to formulate hopes inside her head that cannot be true. Proctor does not love her; nevertheless, she still loves him, and her intense love suddenly develops into a stronger feeling, now cultivated into hate and rejection.

This incident where Abigail hopes to bring clarity to Proctor is actually a deep moment of clarity for her. She is now aware that Proctor does not care for her. She feels as though she has been mocked, and she is now ready to unleash her vehement wrath upon the small town where she resides. Abigail makes herself vulnerable by revealing her deepest truths, and allowing for the strength of her feelings to be exposed.

The 17th Century idioms used in Miller’s work illustrates the authenticity of characters in the play and emphasizes the veracity of people at the time. Throughout the novel we see the use of the word “Goody” to refer to respectable married women during this time. The use of these two forms of old language emphasize the time period of the play, and stress the importance of the era to the psychology of the characters. The time period, being one where honesty and truthfulness are encouraged by God, shows the value of truth for the characters, therefore proving a prevailing honesty in the words they say.

The use of “Goody” can also further prove the authenticity of its characters. “Goody,” referring to the good women of God, shows how the characters who possess this name genuinely deserve it. Elizabeth Proctor is one of these women. We can see throughout the plot how she is indeed a woman who makes mistakes; however, she is still respectable and “good.” In the play, she is described as one who cannot lie. Everybody seems to believe this, and her “sacred honesty” serves as enough evidence for the court to accuse John Proctor of perjury.

Her lie, however, shows a greater good than honesty. Her willingness to forget her morals for the sake of protecting her husband’s image is extremely selfless. It is the ultimate forgiveness that she gives him. It is her last act of love, but it still manages to take John Proctor to his doom. Elizabeth lies and sacrifices her reputation, but she still remains a “Goody” in the eyes of the audience. She becomes a genuine character because she exposes her truthful feelings of love for her husband and reveals herself as one who can indeed lie. Elizabeth proves how her depiction as a “Goody” is indeed true and therefore proves that Miller’s language is genuine and speaks truths about the characters he writes about.

Hyperbole in the language of the play serves as solidifying evidence to the characters’ seemingly exaggerated perceptions of their surroundings, which in reality are truths about what the characters think and genuinely feel. In Act Two, John Proctor tells his wife, “Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer!” (Miller 55). With the use of hyperbole and the personification of justice, John Proctor shows his genuine opinion and feelings about his wife’s harsh judgement. Proctor sees her justice as being able to freeze beer, a quality that justice cannot possess, and a process that is difficult to achieve due to the nature of alcohol. His feelings about her justice are stronger than what they actually are. He feels such a strong guilt, that it makes him feel as though it is being caused by his wife’s judgement.

When in reality, the cold judgement that he vocalizes comes from within. This terrible repent that he carries, makes him perceive an extreme coldness from Elizabeth that in the act is not so obvious for the audience. For him, however, Elizabeth is an unforgiving person, because of the thoughts and feelings he possesses inside of him and the lack of forgiveness he has given himself. This passage opens him up to the audience and makes his cause genuine and humane.

The veracity of humanity is a prevalent value in the society and era of The Crucible. It is a time in which characters are stripped from the agendas of complexity, and are predominantly truthful. The psychology of the time clearly allows for such veracity to take place, and Miller’s accurate portrayal of these values in his play can help readers understand at a deeper level, the correctness of the play. In Miller’s work, the use of powerful diction serves as a window into the personalities and emotions of the characters.

The implementation of 17th Century idioms serve to emphasize the setting of the play in a time where truthfulness is valued but also allow for the accurate portrayal of characters through the titles Miller chooses to give them. The presence of hyperbolic expressions help depict the genuine feelings of the characters despite them being clear exaggerations of the occurrence of reality.

The Crucible’s characters in many ways, despite their clear paranoias, can serve as role models to the highly complex, and pretentious lives many modern individuals choose to lead. In modern society, genuine people who say what they mean, who choose to speak truths, and who have the courage to expose their deepest identities and complex feelings, are rare. It is a sad reality that society is drenched in coats of lies and in shells of superficiality that hide the genuine truths of who individuals are, what they feel, and what their complex consciousness guides them to think. Despite The Crucible’s nature as a play, in which genuinity is needed for the clear portrayal of characters, the veracity of its characters is a value that modern individuals should implement into quotidien life.

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The Use of Literary Devices to Depict the Power Characters and Their Feelings in The Crucible, a Play by Arthur Miller. (2022, Dec 14). Retrieved from

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