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?
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