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The Crucible by Arthur Miller raises many thought provoking issues throughout the play, including the importance of personal integrity, injustice in society and the rights of the community versus the rights of the individual.
The first, the importance of personal integrity, is brought to light through John Proctor, who finds himself facing personal conflict when making the decision of whether to lie and 'confess' to the court, saving his own life, or to tell the truth and be condemned by it. Upon first deciding to confess and live, Proctor acknowledges he has given his soul to the devil, but refuses to also tarnish his name by allowing his confession to be stuck to the door of the church.
" I have given you my soul; leave me my name."
Proctor's attempt to decide his fate is reinforced by stage directions within the script. When Proctor asks Elizabeth to help him decide his future, "He turns directly to her", creating intimacy between the characters. This is later revisited after Proctor's execution with the lighting directions describing "The new sun… pouring in on her face". Together the physical movement and lighting help to increase dramatic tension and create atmosphere.
The Crucible also brings to light the theme of injustice in society. Not only does Judge Hathorne and Deputy-Governor Danforth have no proof of the crimes other than the word of the girls, but they leave the accused no options -- they either lie to save their lives, and hence 'admit' to the crime, or they die telling the truth which will not be believed by the public anyway. Even when Reverend Hale becomes suspicious that it is a hoax and informs the court of his fears, Danforth and Hathorne ignore his pleads for extra time to investigate and continue on with how they best see the court's proceedings.
" Danforth: I will have nothing from you, Mr Hale…
Hale: I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court."
Hale slamming the door behind him intensifies his words -- he is through with the court and will never be returning again as a supporter of the court's 'justice'. The anger of Danforth and the tone of his words, "Mr Hale! Mr Hale!" also indicates the effect Hale's actions and fears will have on the court.
Finally, The Crucible also discusses the rights of the individual versus the rights of the community.
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" Proctor: Mr Parris, you are the first minister ever did demand the deed
to this house --
Parris: Man! Doesn't a minister deserve a house to live in?
Proctor: To live in, yes. But to ask ownership is like you shall own the
(communities') meeting house itself."
This demonstration of Parris' greed and demands for individual possessions over the community's rights to them is also strengthened through the use of props, in particular Parris' gold candlesticks. These candlesticks show the audience that while Parris is the minister of a Puritan society, he does not follow his own preaching, demanding the best and most extravagant items available for his individual use.
In Diving for Pearls by Katherine Thomson, the themes of personal integrity, society versus the individual and personal relationships are all discussed. The theme of personal integrity is brought up through Den and his refusal of the redundancy package. While Barbara and Ron do not understand what Den is doing, "Ron: You want to know what your choices are? You either take the money and go. Or go. By the time you wake up to yourself their cheque book'll be well and truly shut", Den insists that this is the right thing to do.
"Den: I won't take the package. I won't take the money… It's a payment
to be quiet. To go out on tip-toes."
The despair and futility felt by the characters, in particular by Den, is reinforced in the stage directions -- "He (Den) flings the shovel down to Ron."
The theme of society and the individual is also examined in this incident. Den seems to think that refusing the package will be an attack on those responsible for shutting the steel works, and give him the opportunity to speak out against them, however Ron and Barbara think that all Den will succeed in doing is loosing the money he needs, and make little if any impact of those responsible. Den's insignificance as an individual against society and industrialisation is also highlighted through the use of symbolism, in particular the tuba, signifying the working class of the past and present and the life of Den's father.
The importance of personal relationships is also disputed throughout Diving for Pearls. There are many disfunctional relationships, none of which except for Verge and Den are based on communication. A good example of this is the relationship between Marge and Barbara, who are continually trying to undermine each other by each attempting to appear to be a better person and lead a happier and more successful life. In doing this, Marge and Barbara use Verge and Den as toys, each attempting to have more power and influence on them than the other.
The facial expression of the actors and the tone of their voices also help to demonstrate the competitiveness and bitterness between the sisters.
" She only has to look sideways at Barbara and Barbara is deflated."
Both The Crucible and Diving for Pearls are theatrical and thought provoking, despite using different methods to do so.
The Crucible relies more on physical action, character complexity and development and dramatic tension while Diving for Pearls uses more symbolism, everyday characters and genuine dialogue. Regardless however, of which play is being viewed, each play succeeds in being good entertainment offering the audience an experience that is both theatrical and thought provoking.