Rebelling Against the Status Quo in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

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In a world where compromise is part of our daily experience, there is something to be

said for the rebel. Depending on the time, circumstances and historian, individuals who have

been found to revolt have been labeled everything from heroic revolutionary leader to mere

lunatic (albeit magnificent agitators). The actions and agendas of such rebels vary, as do the

means and modes of self expression. But one thing is certain – rebels capture our attention, if not

our collective imagination, and oftentimes strike a common chord found within the human spirit.

There is a certain element of excitement and dread attached to the idea of rebelling against the

status quos regardless of a given agenda. One of the more compelling heroes of revolt in recent

literary and theatrical history is Arthur Miller. Arthur Miller is arguably the most celebrated

playwright of the past half century and has secured a well earned place in the history of

playwrights of revolt.

Arthur Miller’s moderately humble beings as a child growing up in the shadow of New

York City did little to anticipate his eventual rise as a literary giant. Miller’s family was

“unequivocally middle-class and Jewish (Bigsby, page viii).” There were no notable experiences

that shaped him or propelled him in a particular direction. But Miller did have a desire to attend

the University of Michigan and when he was initially denied admission he went to work to

reverse the university’s decision. Miller gained employment to personally cover his tuition and

“wrote a letter to the president of the university and asked for a chance to prove his merit

(Bigsby, page viii).” He was eventually accepted and successfully earned a Bachelor of Arts


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plays. Miller was married three times (most notably to Marilyn Monroe), was active in liberal

movements, stood up against the House of Un-American Activities Committee and even

endeavored to write an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. From Joe Keller to

Willy Loman, John Proctor to Dr. Stockman, Miller championed the common-man’s struggle to

revolt against the world’s standards and their resolve, if not to live then to die on their own

terms. He asked hard questions, gave unpopular answers and articulated revolt in a way that

continues to stir generations.

Works Cited

An Enemy of the People, 1950, Henrik Ibsen, Adapted by Arthur Miller, Penguin Plays

The Crucible, Arthur Miller, 1952, Dramatists Play Service, Inc

The Portable Arthur Miller, 1971, Edited by Christopher Bigsby, Penguin Classic, Inc.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that in a world where compromise is part of our daily experience, there is something to be grateful for.
  • Opines that the playwright of the past half century has secured a well earned place in the history of literature.
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