This school year has been a series of firsts for me - new school district, first time teaching high school, first time teaching English - so this means that not only will I be spending my time pleasure reading, but I will also be spending time reading for school. The Crucible is a fairly standard staple in most high school English curriculum, but I somehow managed to not read it. My only explanation is that I was always in Honors English, and while the general level read The Crucible, we did not. I believe we read The Scarlet Letter instead, if I recall correctly...
For those of you who may not have read it, The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller that is based on the Salem witch trials which occurred in Salem, Massachusetts in the 17th century. While the characters and events in the play are based on real historical people and events, Miller does make changes and it is a work of fiction. It was written in 1953 and Miller uses the Salem witch trials as a mirror for the Communist hysteria spearheaded by Senator McCarthy.
While I had never read the actual play, I have seen the movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. The film is excellent and faithful to the original play. Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor is amazing, especially at the end when John Proctor faces the decision of whether or not he is willing to sign his name to a false confession. The play itself is amazingly well written and the parallels between the witch trials and the events of the 1950's are remarkable, especially considering the span in history between the two events. The historian in me loves this and I'm reminded of a college professor who always used to say, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure rhymes a lot."
As with any play, I prefer to see it performed, but I did enjoy reading the play. It has led to some great discussions, particularly on justice, identity, relationships and motivation in class. Students seem to connect to the play and I've enjoyed hearing their opinions. The Crucible has some amazing dynamic characters - namely John and Elizabeth Proctor and Reverent Hale - and their journeys make for an engaging and entertaining read. What I like most about this play is that there are so many avenues for exploring and delving into the text. The nerd in me always loves this and it's one thing that I miss about being a student myself - the discussions, the analyzing of texts, the exploration of the events and characters, the making of connections. Fortunately, in my new role I have been able to get back to this in many ways and The Crucible has proven to be a very engaging text.