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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Tony Award-wining play The Crucible is a powerfully disturbing fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials that took place in Massachusetts in the 17th century. Rigid religious and moral views contribute to a community's mass hysteria when a young girl and her friends accuse innocent people who have slighted them of performing witchcraft. The selfish cruelty of Abigail's behavior, and the willingness of the community's religious leaders to rule with fear and violence, teach valuable lessons but are tragic and painful to witness. The Crucible is generally required reading for middle or high school students, and is often used as a point of departure to discuss the anti-communist McCarthyism of the 1950s. In fact, Arthur Miller's stage directions include his own insights into his characters, and into the similarities between the Salem witch trials and the actions of the U.S. Congress' Committee on Un-American Activities.
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What's the story?
In Salem, MA, in 1692, in an atmosphere of rigid Puritanical Christianity, a teen girl named Abigail Williams has an illicit affair with a married man, John Proctor, and engages in other forbidden activities, including dancing. Abigail deflects responsibility for her behavior by accusing others of performing witchcraft, and her friends join in, using the ensuing mass hysteria to punish anyone who may have slighted them. Soon the entire community is ruled by fear as the accusations fly, and innocent citizens are imprisoned and executed.
Is it any good?
Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning play is profoundly powerful in its message, as a stage play, and as a piece of literature. Though THE CRUCIBLE was meant to be staged, reading the work offers Miller's lengthy, analytical stage directions and explanations of the time period, characters, and context of the events. Reading The Crucible is a thought-provoking and affecting experience, and the story itself is riveting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the Salem witch trials could occur. Why were the citizens of Salem willing to believe Abigail and the other girls? Why did even those who doubted Abigail go along with the witch-hunt?
Do you think the witch-hunt could have been prevented? If so, how?
The term "witch-hunt" has also been used to describe McCarthyism in the U.S. in the 1950s. What do you know about McCarthyism and how were these events similar?
Why do you think this play is often required reading in middle school or high school?
For kids who love history
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