The Crucible

Essay Topics for The Crucible

  • Consider some of the authority figures in the play –Danforth, Parris, and Proctor. What traits, events, or characters motivate their attitudes and responses toward the witch trials? How do their views in regards to law and order differ from one another? Additionally, what can be said about Kohlberg’s moral stages and Miller’s message on law and order and how does the conflict between these central characters reflect the title of the drama?
  • Most of the main characters in the play have personal flaws and either contribute or lead to tragedy. Discuss whether Reverend Hale or John Proctor is the central tragic character in the play. What are their strengths or qualities that lead to their downfalls? How does the central tragic character transform and how is the change related to the play’s title. How do outside forces contribute to character flaws and eventual downfall?
  • How are themes like greed, scapegoating, hunger for authority or power, and integrity or any of a number of others functional in the drama? Choose a single character and discuss how this person embodies one of the themes above. How is Miller’s underlying message revealed in one of these themes and through the character? What would happen if you universalize the issues and try to relate them to another place or time? For instance, how is scapegoating different or similar in today’s world than it was in the play?
  • What roles do women play in the drama? What is Miller’s treatment of women and what message is he trying to convey? What images or female archetypes are expressed through characters like Mary Warren, Elizabeth and Abigail? How does Kohlberg’s moral stages play into the view we have of each of these women as well as how the view contrasts with other characters in the play?
  • Is Abigail a victim of the society she lives in or can her actions and reactions be attributed to her characteristics or personal traits? Do you think here actions can be pardoned or excused because of outside forces within the drama? Look at the events from her past and present and try making a connection between her behavior and these events. Is Miller’s treatment of women a fair characterization of women from this era?

As you like it

  1. List the “town” characters in the play, enumerate their attributes, and discuss how they reflect town life. Use the same format for the “country” characters.

2. There are four pairs of lovers in the play. Characterize each couple and discuss the concept of love that they represent.

3. Give several examples showing how Shakespeare uses language to indicate class differences among the characters.

4. There are many words in the play that have changed in their meanings since Shakespeare’s time. Make a list of those significant words that are germane to a thorough understanding the play. Discuss how only a present-day meaning of the words can bring about a misunderstanding of the play.

5. What purpose does Rosalind’s disguise serve in the play?

6. Discuss the advantages of “town life” over that of “country life.” Reverse the situation. How does Shakespeare resolve this debate?

7. Of different types of love shown in the play, which does Shakespeare seem to favor? In which characters does this evince itself and to what extent?

8. Discuss the various types of humor in the play. Compare or contrast the wit of Touchstone with that of Jaques; with Corin; and with Rosalind.

9. The Forest of Arden has been said to be, in actuality, the Forest of the Ardennes on the Meuse River in Europe. Yet, there is a Forest of Arden in England. Where do you think it is located? Why?

10. How do the characters reflect the time in which Shakespeare wrote?


Here’s some other topics:

1. As You Like It is full of characters pretending to be someone other than themselves. To what degree are the characters aware that they are role-playing? Does their acting have serious consequences, or is it merely a game?

2. Like Rosalind, both Touchstone and Jaques possess an ability to see things that the other characters do not. They are critics, but their criticism differs greatly from Rosalind’s. How is this so? To what effect do these different criticisms lead?

3. In a play that ends with the formation and celebration of a community, we may be struck by Jaques’s decision not to return to court. What does his refusal suggest about his character? What effect does it have on the play’s ending? Does it cast a shadow over an otherwise happy ending, or is it inconsequential?

4. As You Like It explores the possibility of both homosexual and heterosexual attraction. Does the play present one as the antithesis of the other, or does it suggest a more complex relationship between the two? What, in the end, does the play have to say about these different forms of love?

5. What does Phoebe represent? Why does Rosalind react so negatively toward her?

6. What is the significance of Duke Frederick’s unexpected and very sudden change in Act V? Discuss this episode in relation to other transformations in the play. What does As You Like It suggest about the malleability of the human experience?


Act I
1. Discuss the concepts of fortune and nature as they apply to Orlando and Oliver.

2. Compare and contrast the relationship of Oliver and Orlando with that of Rosalind and Celia.

3. Explore the ways that Shakespeare uses witty wordplay based on “sport” and “wrestling” analogies to reveal his characters’ views on the subject of love.

4. Compare the impressions we get of court life and country life in the first act.

Act II
1. Discuss the ways in which Shakespeare reveals that life in the Forest of Arden, while in many ways an idealized existence, also has its hardships.

2. Explore the many images of the natural world in the second act.

3. Compare and contrast the many sides of Jaques’ character revealed in the scenes in which he is referred to or appears.

4. Discuss the concept of loyalty as it applies to Orlando and Adam in the second act, and the ways in which it defines their characters.

1. Compare and contrast the attitudes toward love expressed by Orlando, Touchstone, Jaques, and Silvius in the third act.

2. Compare and contrast the attitudes of Corin and Touchstone toward country life and city life in Act III, Scene 2.

3. Explore the ways that Rosalind’s Ganymede disguise affects her behavior in this act.

4. Discuss the ways in which the developments in the third act foreshadow further comic complications.

Act IV
1. Examine the ways that Rosalind tests Orlando’s love for her in Act IV Scene 1.

2. Explore the ways in which what we have already learned about Orlando foreshadows his courageous actions in saving his brother’s life.

3. Discuss the ways that Rosalind’s Ganymede disguise proves an advantage and a disadvantage in Act IV, Scenes 1 and 3.

4. Contrast the changing roles of Celia and Oliver in the fourth act with their characterizations earlier in the play.

Act V
1. Compare and contrast the realistically drawn rural characters Corin, William, and Audrey to Silvius and Phebe, who are many ways the conventional “poetic shepherds” of pastoral romance.

2. Explore the ways that Touchstone’s behavior differs when he is in the company of “city” and “country” characters.

3. Discuss the role of Jaques in the play and the reasons that may underlie his decision to remain in the forest.

4. Explain the reasons why Duke Senior, after praising the pastoral life, might want to return to the court.


Their Eyes Were Watching God

  1. In Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie Crawford goes on a journey of self-discovery. What does she learn or achieve or fail to learn or fail to achieve on this journey? How do the stylistic devices or choices Hurston makes help the reader better understand Janie’s journey?
  2. Establish a central theme of the novel. How does Hurston’s stylistic devices or choices establish/reveal/compliment (your chosen theme)?
  3. Hurston uses nature –the pear tree, the ocean, the horizon, the hurricane –not only as a plot device but also as metaphor. How do these metaphors help us understand Janie’s journey? Do the metaphors indicate the success or failure of Janie’s journey? You may analyze all, some, or one of these metaphors.
  4. Reread the last chapter of the novel and the first page of the novel: Pick out specific word choices (diction), images, or metaphors that Hurston returns to at the end. Do a close reading of the text. What is the significance of the ending –does it end on despair, triumph, or a mixture of both?


Please choose a topic and develop a thesis statement; each thesis should include a what, how, and why:

What? the theme you are developing in the paper

How? Hurston’s literary device(s)and/or stylistic technique(s) that you believe help to develop the theme

Why? Level 3: Go beyond the novel and think BIG PICTURE. Why does this novel and, in particular, your chosen topic matter? Why is it significant? What concept or idea makes this worthy to think about? Why should the reader care? What makes this novel so valued? (Unlike The Crucible, which is an allegory about human nature, Their Eyes Were Watching God is situated in a distinct cultural context: a story told by a black woman struggling for independence in the Jim Crow era.

Keep that in mind as you develop your “why” in the thesis). Also, don’t be afraid to bust out a semicolon and start a new sentence for the “why” part of your thesis statement. This part of your thesis might include wording like “ultimately revealing that……” or “demonstrates that …..” This part is surely argumentative because this is what makes your thesis special and unique –it should be debatable but based on evidence.

The Poisonwood Bible

1. Analyze how the novel parallels the break-up of the Price family with the break-up of colonial rule in the Congo.

2. Compare and contrast Brother Fowles and Nathan Price.

3. Analyze how Kingsolver reveals important personality traits by depicting how different family members react to the same event, such as their arrival in the Congo or the driver ants.

4. Rachel remarks, “you can only go your own way according to what’s in your heart. And in my family, all our hearts seem to have whole different things inside” (465). Analyze the separate paths each family member takes after Ruth May’s death, illustrating how each one follows what is in his or her heart.

5. “The power is in the balance: we are our injuries,as much as we are our successes” (496), Adah observes. Apply this observation to at least three characters. Who, if any, find balance? (e.g. Adah, Nathan, Anatole, Leah, Orleanna, the Congo)

6. Examine the hardships and turmoil caused by political strife in the Congo and in Angola. What effects do political problems have on the personal lives of characters in the book?

7. What kinds of captivity and freedom does Kingsolver explore in the novel. What are the causes and consequences of each kind?

8. At Bikoki Station, in 1965, Leah reflects, “I still know what justice is” (438). What concept of justice do different members of the Price family and other characters such as Anatole hold? By the end of the novel, do you have a sense that any justice has occurred, or is true justice an ideal, not a reality?

9. “Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place” (505), says Leah. How did the Price family discover the truth of this statement while living in the Congo?

10. Trace the development of ONE of the novel’s main characters. Does this character grow and change? If so, why(and how)? If not, why not?

11. If you had to assign each character one trait, what would that be? Mary Ellen Snodgrass, who wrote a teacher’s guide for Permabound Books, calls “Ruth May the victim, Adah the survivor, Rachel the gold-digger, and Leah the idealist.”I’d probably call Rachel an “opportunist” instead of “gold-digger” and Ruth May an “innocent” instead of victim. What would you call each of them, and why?

12. A “catalyst” in a work of literature is something which doesn’t change itself, but which causes changes in others. How can Africa be seen as a catalyst in Poisonwood Bible?

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

  1. Nothing is random in the world created by the author.’
    How does Alfred Hitchcock use cinematic features to explore ideas in his
    film Psycho?
  2. How does Alfred Hitchcock present the idea in his film Psycho that being at odds with society’s values involves risk but complying with those values can also be harmful?
  3. In what ways does Alfred Hitchcock explore the oppressive weight of a dead past in Psycho?
  4. Show how Alfred Hitchcock uses one or more of the following as a device to reinforce ideas in his film Psycho:
    • Irony
    • Foreshadowing
    • Changes in time
    • Changes in place
    • Recurring symbol(s)
    • The way the text ends
  5. What techniques does Alfred Hitchcock use to influence the viewer to take a particular position concerning the issues explored in his film Psycho?
  6. How does Alfred Hitchcock use repetition as a technique to emphasize ideas in his film Psycho?
  7. How does Alfred Hitchcock’s use of one or more of Psycho’sminor characters enable the audience to reflect on the main ideas of the film?