Revealing Selfish Murderers

"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller

As the camera fades out leaving the lone figure silhouetted in the solitary spotlight, the music swells to a dramatic climax leaving the audience breathless. Vivid imagery and compelling music that touches the soul thrusts the viewer into the heart of the story allowing them to see the pains, feel the joys, and truly understand the story. Books can have the same effect on a person but do so in a much different manner. When Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible was shifted from stage to screen he was given the opportunity to use film’s advantages to fully express his points on harmful, closed-minded thinking once more. One point that is more easily seen in the film is the constant self-saving motivation that many of the villagers have, driving them to continue their murderous lies.

When the entire town of Salem, Massachusetts becomes infested with the idea of witchcraft, innocent people are brought to their deaths by the accusations of their friends and neighbors. Motivated by fear of the unknown and the need for a scapegoat, many villagers blindly ended their neighbors’ lives while some used this new-found power to protect themselves. Changes to Arthur Miller’s play in the movie format clearly show these selfish acts, especially near the end of the film. After John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, and many others are accused of witchcraft, suspicion continues to torment the minds of many. When the accused are excommunicated from the church in the film, Parris is shown to be using his power to get rid of those who oppose or frighten him. Because Parris had seen the girls’ childish act near the beginning of the story and was aware that witchcraft did not play a part he knowingly sentenced innocent people to hang and banned them from the Church, saving his valuable reputation. Following the excommunications Parris is then shown attending some of the hangings that were also not written in the original play. On film, viewers can see the nervous guilt that is buried within him along with his cowering stature and uneasy, scanning eyes. With such a strong visual, it is difficult to doubt that Parris knows what he is doing is morally wrong. Not only is Parris shown as having self-preserving motivations within the film, but Danforth and Abigail are as well. When Abigail comes running to Danforth claiming that one of the councilmen’s wives is a witch, Danforth calmly claims it couldn’t possibly be true although he had previously believed that anyone who was accused must have been a witch. He tells her that her evidence is untrue and that she cannot be believed, yet does not doubt her evidence or liability from before. This new scene shows that Danforth begins to doubt the entire witchcraft trials, yet decides not to speak up in order to preserve his reputation and career. After accusing so many people, another new scene shows Abigail pleading to Proctor, trying to convince him to run away with her. Through her conversation she explains that she knows she has done wrong and has been lying to save herself from punishment and is going to ultimately save herself by fleeing from town. Although Proctor declines her offer, this scene gives the audience a closer look at the true Abigail.

While the play and the film for Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, both give the same message and tell the same story, some may argue that the film shows the images much more clearly. With the addition of new scenes in the film version, Miller tried another approach to portray the inner workings of his characters. With images and atmosphere that couldn’t be seen and felt through the play, Miller takes advantage of the film and more clearly reveals the selfish murderers within his tangled plot.