Essays About The Crucible: 10 Essay Questions for Students

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is one of the most-studied plays in American history. What are some of the top essays about The Crucible that people can write?

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is a play that focuses on The Salem Witch Trials. This is one of the most studied times in American history when people could be put on trial and brutally executed just for being suspected of being a witch. The primary instigator was Elizabeth Proctor, who was just 17 years old and started falsely accusing people of being a witch. The practice spread to children, such as Abigail Williams, and even men, such as John Proctor, were accused of being a witch. 

In the 15 months following the first accusation, 20 people were executed. The Crucible focuses on how the events of the witch trials unfolded. Take a look at a few possible essay topics that stem from the play.

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1. Who Is the Most Heroic Character in The Crucible?

Even though you can write about many characters and describe why they are heroic, the most heroic character is John Proctor. The people of Salem widely respect him because of his independence. He also has a “sharp and biting way with hypocrites,” always sticking to his virtues.

A few points to touch on in this essay include:

  • He is the main source of social authority in the town, and he is directly tied to the leaders of the Puritan Church. 
  • He is also a deeply flawed person, as he is shown to be adulterous throughout the play and crosses the church more than once.
  • He struggles with a deep moral conflict, growing throughout the play. 

Because of the growth he experiences during the story and the character traits he possesses, he is the most heroic character in the story.

2. What Are the Different Types of Judgment that Take Place in ‘The Crucible’?

It is relatively easy to look at the trials in The Salem Witch Trials and see them as a “Kangaroo Court,” where those accused don’t have a fair trial. At the same time, it is helpful to look at the different types of judgment that occur in the play. A few possible points to mention include:

  • There is an element of legal judgment in the play, but it is mostly superficial. Danforth is responsible for legal judgment, but this is natural justice because of its dogmatic focus on reputation. 
  • There is also an element of personal judgment, particularly when Proctor believes himself to be a “sinner” that has gone against the morals he holds himself to. 
  • Finally, there is also spiritual judgment, as shown when Elizabeth assures Proctor that there is “no higher judge under the heaven.” The town is also fearful of God’s judgment throughout the play, contributing to mass hysteria.

The essay can look at these different types of judgment and how they impact the town during the play. 

3. Why Is ‘The Crucible’ Considered To Be Timeless?

A lot of people describe the play as a timeless one. The play is still relevant today, even though it focuses on events over 300 years ago. An interesting essay would look at why the play is still relevant today. Some of the reasons include:

  • Mass hysteria can still happen today, and it might be worth looking at a few recent examples.
  • Dogmatic religious persecution is still a very big problem in certain parts of the world, and a strong essay could highlight a few examples.
  • A lot of people are still accused of crimes without any evidence, and the court of public opinion might find them guilty before a real trial has taken place.

These topics are so deep that it is possible to write a full essay on each of the individual points above, drawing parallels between them and the play. 

4. How Does Arthur Miller Explore Mass Hysteria Through the Lens of Salem and His Characters?

Many people say that The Crucible is the perfect example of just how badly instances of mass hysteria can unfold. Mass hysteria is arguably the most dominant theme of the play, as the people of Salem are engulfed by worries related to witchcraft and accusations of people worshipping the devil. 

It could be helpful to write an essay on how mass hysteria developed and evolved during the play. Some of the key points to note include:

  • People who are consumed by mass hysteria are unable to think rationally.
  • One rumor that Abigail creates leads to dozens of people being incarcerated in just a matter of days, despite the accusations being unproven.
  • The effects of mass incarceration directly influence a very repressive society.
  • Many people feel the need to join the repressive crowd because they want to be seen as religious.

Finally, the essay can also touch on how mass hysteria impacted not only those people who were accused but also those making the accusations. Then, the essay can discuss what finally brought these events to an end. 

5. Analyze the Factors Contributing to Salem’s Downfall and How They Relate to the Main Theme of the Crucible

Several factors contribute to the downfall of Ceylon and the events that unfold in The Crucible. A few examples include:

  • Samuel Parris, Annie Putnam, and even Judge Danforth struggled with the living conditions of Salem, which caused people not to think straight. He rendered them susceptible to anyone offering the slightest explanation regarding the adverse living conditions.
  • The rigid, religious, dogmatic society contributed to easy accusations, with people eager for someone to blame for the hard times.
  • Family feuds also contributed to the events of The Crucible, causing the parents to believe the haphazard lies of their children.

Ultimately, these factors can be discussed in an essay on The Crucible. They directly feed into the main theme of mass hysteria stemming from religious dogmatism.

6. What Changes Does Reverand Hale Go Through During ‘The Crucible’?

In the play The Crucible, Reverend Hale is one of the most important characters. He initially supported The Salem Witch Trials, but then he changed his mind. He even published a harsh criticism of the trials in the town of Salem.

Some of the key points to note include:

  • He initially supported the trials, even saying, “Before the Laws of God, we are as swine!”
  • He is a perfect example of how a powerful religious figure can directly lead to mass hysteria.
  • He eventually changes his mind when he loses faith in the court, seeing how immoral it is.

Reverend Hale undergoes one of the most dramatic transformations as the play unfolds. It is worth taking a closer look at his initial position, his final position, and the impact of his transformation on his life and the town. 

7. Why Do People Accuse Those Who Are Different, and Why Aren’t They Challenged?

It might also be helpful to look at some of the biggest reasons people accuse those different from them. A few points to include in the essay might be:

  • People tend to accuse those who are different because they are scared of them. They don’t know what to expect, and keeping them down might be the easiest way to allay their fears.
  • People might also accuse those different from them because they see an easy target. They feel like they can elevate their social standing by taking advantage of easy prey.
  • Finally, people might somehow accuse those different from them because they genuinely believe them to be “lesser” people. It might be helpful to draw a few parallels between the play and history.

It is also important to highlight why these accusations go unchallenged. Do they want a side with the person making the accusation? Or do they want to side with the person being accused? Some people try to ride the middle, not saying anything at all.

Ultimately, they agree with the person accusing by not saying anything because they are not challenging an accusation, even if it is without evidence. This could be an interesting topic to explore, and there are plenty of parallels between this topic and the play. 

8. The Paper Makes a Consistent Appearance Throughout the Play; what Does it Mean?

In The Crucible, the paper shows up again and again. In other works of literature, it is commonly associated with truth and knowledge. After all, it is how events are recorded. This play is more closely associated with individualism and mortality. Some of the points to note include:

  • The paper shows up in the play as the judicial list naming the people who have been condemned for witchcraft, demonstrating moral issues.
  • Then, the paper shows up again, outlining the crimes Proctor is accused of, showing issues related to morality and individualism.
  • The paper also shows up again when Proctor refuses to sign his testimony or have his false confession recorded with his signature on it or “posted on the church door,” alluding to morality and individualism.

These are just a few of the biggest ways that paper stands for morality and individualism. Of course, there are several other possibilities, and a strong essay would back up any claim with evidence from the play. 

9. What Is a Crucible, and What Is the Meaning of the Play’s Title?

Essays About The Crucible: What is a crucible, and what is the meaning of the play’s title?
A crucible is a metal container that can melt substances when exposed to high temperatures

Even though The Crucible focuses on The Salem Witch Trials, it is helpful to take a step back and think about why the play is named for a crucible. A crucible is a metal container that can melt substances when exposed to high temperatures. This essay will draw a parallel between the purpose of a crucible and its relation to the play.

A few key points to note include:

  • Danforth states, “we burn a fire in here…” drawing a parallel between the fires of hell and the court proceedings that are about to unfold.
  • The court’s goal is to separate good from evil, just as a crucible burns up evil inside the container, leaving only the good left.
  • The town goes on a violent witch hunt, accusing people indiscriminately, just as the crucible fires can sometimes burn so hot that nothing is left.

There are plenty of parallels between the name of the play and the container for which it is named. 

10. What Issues Present in “The Crucible” Do We Still Face Today?

Finally, it could also be helpful to write an essay on whether you believe the issues present in the play are still present today. A few points to touch on include:

  • Many people are concerned with developing “fake news” and “alternative facts.” How do you think these issues are similar to the mass hysteria presented in The Crucible? 
  • What role do you think leaders in our government are supposed to play, and how do you see our leaders falling short like those in The Crucible
  • How did the events of The Crucible eventually come to an end, and what do you think our leaders should do today? 

This topic can be very politically charged, but it is still important for people to think about. It can push even professional writers to think critically about what they believe, why they believe it, and what it might mean for the future. 

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing topics!