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"The Scarlet Letter" vs. "The Crucible"
The Scarlet Letter, and The Crucible are two literary works set in the early days of the Massachusetts colony. Both of these works have many striking similarities between them, including theme, setting, conflicts, and some plot elements. Despite many of these striking
similarities, these two literary works are also very different, each one using a common theme, but developing it into a completely different story than the other. It’s this starting point of a common theme that gives these stories some of their similarities, and also the time period they were written in contributes to this also. Each play tells of different portrayals of the effects of sin on the protagonists, how they cope with it, and the consequences of their actions. The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter are some of the greatest works of their genre and each tells their own tale.
A common element of both of these works is the main conflict. In The Crucible, John
Proctor had an affair with Abigail Williams, and Abigail tries to get revenge on John by trying to get his wife tried as a witch. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne cheats on her husband, Roger Chillingworth, with one of the ministers of the town, Dimmesdale, and has a child through their relationship. Roger Chillingworth tries to get revenge on Dimmesdale through careful prying and assaults on his guilt stricken conscious. Each of these villains has their own purpose in mind, Abigail’s is to get rid of John’s wife and make him her husband, and Chillingworth’s purpose is purely to get revenge, which he focuses his whole mortal life on. Each of these villains tries to attain their goals in different ways, but in the end they both fail and their plans backfire on them in a way that they could not expect.
Another common element of these two literary works is the setting. Both The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible take place in the early days of the Massachusetts colony in North America. Both of these literary works take place around the mid 1700’s to the early 1800’s. During this time period, many people were highly religious, and believed that things that couldn’t
be explained by normal means was the result of witchcraft. Both the town of Salem in The Crucible and the town of Boston in The Scarlet Letter, were colonized by Puritans, who had many religious beliefs and rules. This setting contributes to the importance of how severe Hester’s and John’s sins were in this time period. If these works were set place in a later time period, such as modern day, the only result of Adultery would most likely be getting a divorce. Back then, however, these crimes were punishable by death, but this was not the consequence that the protagonists of both works received. As you can see, setting has a highly important
impact on both of these literary works and it helps to convey the plot even more.
The reoccurring theme of The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible is the effects of sin on
man, most importantly, the sin of adultery. Both of these literary works use this theme to develop the leading male characters, and the conflicts that they both go through. Another
important use of this theme is to show the effects of their confession when they finally confess their sins. When John Proctor confesses, he realizes that he has a shred of good in him, and he is not afraid to be hung as a witch. When Reverend Dimmesdale confesses, he lets the whole town of Boston know that anyone is capable of sinning. After he confesses, he is finally able to
let his daughter, Pearl, kiss him in public and to die a happy man. A byproduct of Dimmesdale’s
confession is that Roger Chillingworth, having nothing else to live for, dies. Even though the
ways that each of these literary works use this common them in their stories, they use it to develop the plot in a different way. This common theme gives the authors a way to expand their
books and give them a different plot-line than the other.
Something that is different in The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible is the use of
symbolism that each one uses. In The Crucible, John Proctor signing his name on the paper confessing to witchcraft is a symbol of him basically giving up his freedom and the last few shreds of dignity he has left. He knew if he signed this, he would be treated as an outcast in their
society, which was a punishment almost as bad as death itself. He tears up his confession paper,
which is symbolic to him breaking free of the chains that bind him, and not giving away his life to be used as an example. In The Scarlet Letter, the scarlet letter "A" embroidered on Hester’s gown was a symbol that we learned to recognize quite well throughout the story. The scarlet letter represents Hester’s sin and everyone in Boston recognizes it and shuns her for it. This letter marks her as someone who was a sinner, and her child was basically an offspring of the devil’s desires. Hester learns to live with this letter, even though that she can feel the searing heat
of it burning on her chest, or otherwise her conscious. In both works, symbolism is used to help
convey the theme, but each author uses a different symbol with a different meaning throughout the stories.
A more subtle plot element in The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible is the use of irony. Even though it is not noticeably present, it is hinted at in both of the plays. The Scarlet Letter’s most prominent use of irony is the fact that Reverend Dimmesdale, a most respectable and holy man in their community, was capable of succumbing to the devil’s desire. It must surely be ironic when a man that the whole community looks up to and preaches against sin is the one who commits it! Furthermore, this man does not have the courage to confess his secret, knowing that it would be the end of him if his guilt does not take him first. In The Crucible, it is ironic that once John Proctor realizes that there is still good within him, he must die for a crime that he did not commit. But if it was not for him being sentenced to death and not signing the confession papers, he would not have realized that he was capable of other things besides evil. In both of these literary works, irony is used very subtly, but it is still capable of making a lasting impression on the reader.
In conclusion, The Scarlet Letter, and The Crucible, no matter how similar have several major discrepancies in them that sets them apart from each other. These differences make both of these literary works a unique experience to read, and gives each of them a very compelling plot-line. These works also seem so similar, its hard not to wonder if the authors were both one and the same. Through the elements of plot, conflict, theme, setting, symbolism, and
others, each author uses these masterfully to make two similar stories, but each one leaving a
different lasting impression on the reader. Therefore, The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible, no
matter how many similarities they share and differences they have, are two literary works
masterfully written and should be recommended to many others. These similarities and differences are what sets these two stories apart from others, the intertwining plot lines come together to create a literary sensation.