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The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Background Information Terms to Know. The Crucible Historical Context—The Red Scare. The Crucible Historical Context—The Red Scare. In a post WWII US, as the Cold War was beginning, Americans were afraid of the rise of communism coming to our country.

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the crucible by arthur miller

The Crucibleby Arthur Miller

Background Information

Terms to Know

the crucible historical context the red scare1
The CrucibleHistorical Context—The Red Scare
  • In a post WWII US, as the Cold War was beginning, Americans were afraid of the rise of communism coming to our country.
  • During reports of communists’ activities world wide, reports began to surface that there were communist spies in the US to learn about our atomic secrets. Citizens feared a nuclear holocaust.
  • Congress created of Un-American Activities Committee and targeted many writers, producers and actors in Hollywood. “Are you now or have you ever been involved in the communist party?” Many were unsure of how to answer.
    • Burl Ives, Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Miller, Shirley Temple (who was 7 years old), Lucille Ball
  • When Senator Joe McCarthy began to question high-ranking government officials, the Red Scare ended, but the careers of those who had been blacklisted were over.
the crucible historical context puritanism
The CrucibleHistorical Context—Puritanism
  • Government of Puritan Theocracy
    • Ruled by the unbending authority of the church
    • The leaders of the church were equivalent to elected officials.
    • If you fell out of favor with the church, you were expected to move out of the community
  • Puritans believed that you could make a pact with the devil. The devil would act out through you in life, and when die, the devil takes your soul.
  • They believed in the powers of witches and witchcraft.
  • They took the word of the Bible even more literally than the British, whom they fled from to avoid religious persecution.
basic puritan beliefs
Basic Puritan Beliefs
  • Total Depravity—through Adam’s fall, every human is born sinful, concept of Original Sin
  • Unconditional Election—God “saves” those he wishes; only a few are selected for salvation; concept of predestination
  • Limited Atonement—Jesus died for the chosen only; not for everyone
  • Irresistible Grace—God’s grace is given freely, it cannot be earned or denied; grace is defined as the saving and transfiguring power of God
  • Perseverance of the “saints”—those elected by God have full power to interpret the will of God, and to live uprightly. If anyone rejects grace after feeling its power in his life, he will be going against the will of God—something impossible to Puritanism
salem witch trials 1692
Salem Witch Trials-1692
  • Lasted from March-May of 1692
  • 140 were accused; 34 were killed (including 13 that died in prison waiting for a trial.
  • Causes: The Puritans believed Satan was an active force in their world; times were hard, and they blamed Satan; leaders could blame “witchcraft” instead of themselves; teenagers were bored; people started to confess to things they really didn’t do.
  • Choices if you were accused: You could leave town, accuse someone else, confess, plead innocent and stand trial.
  • Why the witch hunts ended: accusations began to include the powerful and well connected; prominent people began to be accused; the educated elite began to push for specific evidence
other famous and more recent witch trials
Other Famous (and more recent) “Witch Trials”
  • The Holocaust of World War II
  • McCarthyism and The Second Red Scare 1950’s
  • South African Apartheid 1953-1989
  • The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial 1987-90
    • Longest court case in American History
the crucible terms to know
The Crucible Terms to Know
  • Concepts:
    • Theocracy-system of government in which God is viewed as the supreme ruler
    • Puritanism-extreme strictness in moral or religious matters, often to excess
    • Tragedy-dramatic presentation of serious actions in which the chief character has a disastrous fate
    • Historical Fiction-set among actual events or a specific period of history
  • Literary Elements:
    • Protagonist-the main “hero”
    • Antagonist-the adversary of the protagonist
    • Voice-the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality, and character
    • Theme-often explores timeless and universal ideas and may be implied rather than stated explicitly
  • Literary Devices:
    • Irony-an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected
    • Paradox-a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth
    • Allegory-a symbolical narrative
themes in the crucible
Themes in The Crucible
  • It's better to fail with honor than succeed as a fraud.
  • When good men do nothing, evil can triumph.
  • One error can lead up to many errors.
  • The truth shall set you free.
  • A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
  • Saving your image is not worth the lives of innocent people.
  • Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • There’s a fine line between heaven and hell.
works cited
Works Cited
  • “Investigating the Salem Witch Trials: Theory 1.” American History: Colonial America. Discovery Education. 2 March 2010.
  • Linder, Douglas. “Famous American Trials: The Salem Witch Trials.” 2009. University of Missouri, Kansas State. 1 March 2010.
  • Mack, Barbara. “The Red Scare: McCarthyism.” 2002. Pagewise. 1 March 2010.
  • Marquis, M. “Witch Hunts that Don’t Involve Witches.” Massachusetts Curriculum Framework. 1 March 2010.