Friday, November 14, 2014

Reflections on Sexism in The Crucible

It's already been said a number of times that in class we are reading The Crucible. While we are not particularly far into the play, it is already completely evident that there are a number of prejudices against women in the text. The majority of the characters are women, which provides a number of case studies not only into what was believed in the Quaker times, but even more so into what was believed when Arthur Miller wrote the play in 1952.

The 1950s were hardly a fantastic time for women in the U.S. They were generally thought to be the domestic caretaker in the nuclear family. Homemakers, mothers, cooks, and cleaners, they operated under labels which confined them to the home and limited them from excessive ambition. This ambition was generally saved for their husbands. Here too, the affairs of women seem like silly, unimportant matters that in general do not require the attention of men. If something does require the attention of a man, it is because the woman has erred to extent that it might conflict with the man's goals and and his importance.

Ironically, for all the dialect changes between 1692 and 1952, the role of women in the society remained remarkably the same. In the first act of The Crucible, all positions of power are held by men: John Proctor, Parris, Giles, Putnam, etc. Their wives and female servants are perpetually giddy, odd, ridiculous, inert or unreasonable. This is shown by all the female characters thus introduced. They have jobs, but in so far as the audience has seen, it would appear all women do is cause trouble for men to clean up.

However, this unapologetically sexist message is hardly the message of the play. In fact, given the little change between the roles of women in the the late 17th century and the mid 20th century, it is likely that Miller was not even aware he was writing in harmful stereotypes. He uses the women of his play as a tool to comment on the wider systematic political flaws occurring in a America during his time- the problems of men. Even the women are only used to represent the flawed men, or communists, as I come to understand it.

I do not blame Miller. He is writing during his time. And in any writer's present time it is near impossible to leave the societal views which the community as a whole have bestowed on us. This play is a prime example of views on women in the 1950s, certainly more so than of views on women in the 1690s.

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