Junior Honors Summer Reading Guide

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1 The Crucible, by Arthur Miller Junior Honors Summer Reading Guide As you read The Crucible, respond to the following questions. (We will use these questions as a springboard to discussion at the beginning of first quarter.) Crucible Act I Reading Check 1. When Abigail is alone with Proctor, what claim does she make? 2. Whom has Parris invited to Salem? 3. Why are both Mrs. Putnam and Abigail interested in Tituba s conjuring? First Thoughts 1. What do you think of Abigail, and what would you have said to her if you had been present at the end of Act One? Shaping Interpretations 2. Why is Reverend Parris so terrified by the events in Salem? What possible result does he fear? 3. How would you explain the illnesses of Betty and Ruth? 4. How would you interpret Abigail s relationship to the other girls and her relationship to Proctor?

2 5. Summarize Hale s view of his mission in Salem. What does he mean when he says the Devil is precise? 6. At the beginning of the act, Tituba enters Betty s bedroom in fright because she knows trouble in this house eventually lands on her back. Are her fears justified? To what extent is Tituba a scapegoat for Abigail and the other girls, and to what extent does she share responsibility for the witch hunt? 7. At the end of the act, what do you think is Abigail s motivation to open herself and begin naming names? 8. A static character changes little or not at all during a story. A dynamic character changes in an important way as a result of the story s action. Among the characters introduced in Act One, which do you think have potential for change as they play progresses? Connecting with the Text 9. When someone is accused of a crime today, do people still have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon with the accusers? Explain your answer.

3 Crucible Act II Discussion questions Respond to the following questions and be prepared for classroom discussion. Questions Reading Check: 1. At the beginning of the act, why does Elizabeth want John to go to Salem? 2. What gift does Mary Warren give to Elizabeth? 3. According to Elizabeth, what is Abigail s true objective in court? 4. Why has Rebecca Nurse been jailed? 5. What does John Proctor want Mary to testify? 6. At this point in the play, what would you do if you were John Proctor? (His wife has just been accused of witchcraft and hauled off to jail.) 7. Describe the relationship between John and Elizabeth. In your own words, explain the metaphor of the everlasting funeral that John sees in Elizabeth s heart. 8. Based on Mary s statements, what do you infer is the real reason Mary gives Elizabeth the gift? 9. How do you interpret Mary s visions and accusations? What clues does Miller give us about her motivation?

4 10. Why does Hale become suspicious of the Proctors? What is the irony in Hale s urging Proctor to show charity? 11. The protagonist of a story is the central character who drives the action, and is usually considered the hero or heroine. The antagonist is the character who struggles against the protagonist, often with cruel or destructive intent. By the end of Act Two, which character seems to have emerged as the protagonist? Which character is most clearly the antagonist? Support your answer with specific evidence from the text. 12. Identify at least three external conflicts in the play. Then describe the internal conflict that Proctor faces. How could Proctor s conflict relate to a broader conflict in the play between public appearance and private reality? 13. What insights about the Puritans do you gain from reading the Crucible insights that you don t usually find in a history textbook? 14. What dangers are possible in relying on historical fiction to uncover facts and truth? 15. List one historical fact that is different in the play?

5 Act Three Thinking Exercise Directions: Respond to the following questions in complete sentences. 1. What does Proctor s decision to confess his involvement with Abigail reveal about his character? 2. Why does Elizabeth Proctor lie when questioned by Danforth? What are the consequences of her lie? 3. Why does Mary Warren change her testimony and turn on John Proctor? 4. Do you find Reverend Hale sympathetic? Why or why not? 5. Which qualities of a good judge do you think are lacking in Hathorne and Danforth? Dramatic Irony: A contrast between what a characters thinks is true and what the audience knows. Basically, the audience knows more than the character. Verbal Irony: Words that seem to say one thing actually mean another. Consider the dramatic irony that occurs when Elizabeth testifies about her husband s behavior.

6 6. What does she not know that the audience knows? 7. Why is the effect of her testimony so ironic? 8. Identify one phrase or expression in Act Three that made a strong impression on you. Tell why the phrase affected you. 9. Danforth believes that he is living in a sharp time in which good and evil are not mixed in people, but are easily distinguishable. Do you agree with his viewpoint? Why or why not? 10. Serious dramatic works often include comic relief the inclusion of a comic episode or element to relieve emotional tension. In Shakespeare s tragedies, comic relief is often provided by the absurd wisdom of a clown or fool (such as the gravedigger in Hamlet). Do you think Giles Corey s eccentric and earthy dialogue provides comic relief in The Crucible? Support your answer with specific examples from the play. 11. What does Hale mean when he asks if every defense is an attack upon the court? How has Hale changed by the end of this act? 12. When John reveals his true relationship to Abigail, what do you think he also reveals about his character and his motivation? 13. In sports, in politics, and in war, people often demonize their opponents that is, they portray their enemies as incarnations of evil. Can you think of examples? Why do you think people do this? What effect do you think such behavior has on society as a whole?

7 Act IV Discussion questions 1. Which character do you most identify with? Why? Whom did Miller identify with? 2. Why does Hale say he has come to do the Devil s work? What motivates his actions? What literary device does Miller use here? 3. What events precede the sudden disappearance of Abigail and Mercy? 4. What does Parris fear about the response of the people in Andover? 5. Why does Hale counsel Elizabeth to persuade John Proctor to lie? Do you think he is right to do so? 6. How do you interpret Arthur Miller s statement that John and Elizabeth inhabit a world beyond sorrow, above it? 7. What motivations does Proctor have for confessing? At the same time, why does he see his confession as deeply ironic? 8. In the play s climax, proctor destroys his own confession. Why does he ultimately choose his goodness? 9. Miller said he wrote The Crucible with the conviction that there were moments when an individual conscience was all that could keep the world from falling apart. Do you agree with his conviction? Do you think the play actually demonstrates a triumph of individual conscience? Explain. 10. In Act One, after the introduction of Proctor, Miller writes that modern Americans have inherited the Puritan idea that sin cannot be washed away an idea that has disciplined us,

8 but has also bred hypocrisy. Explain why you agree or disagree with Miller s assessment of American culture. 11. The writer of a literary work may have responsibilities not only to readers and publishers but also to the people he or she chooses to write about. Do you think Arthur Miller had a responsibility to portray the Salem witchcraft trials accurately? Is his use of artistic license with respect to some of the historical facts justifiable? To what extent do you think a writer, artist, or filmmaker should be accurate when basing a work of fiction on historical events? Explain your opinion. 12. Miller has called The Crucible a tragedy. Do you think it is a tragedy? Why or why not? 13. Some critics have claimed that Miller s play is really only a vehicle for his own political viewpoints. How do you feel about these criticisms of the play? Based on what you know about his involvement in the HUAC, what is he saying about that period of his life? 14. What is Miller s take on the significance of one s own name? 15. Why did Elizabeth Proctor let John go to his death without much of a fight?

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