by Arthur Miller
The Crucible Theme of Lies and Deceit
Most of the characters in The Crucible are lying—if not to other people, then to themselves. Abigail lies about her ability to see spirits, as do the other girls; Proctor is deceitful first for cheating on his wife and then for hiding it; and the judge and lieutenant governor and ministers lie to themselves and everybody else in saying that they serve the cause of God’s justice. The twist in the story is that by telling the truth (“I am not a witch”), you die, but you also gain your freedom—that is, you retain your standing with God, and you become a martyr.
Questions About Lies and Deceit
- What are the different methods used by the religious authorities in Salem to decide whether people are telling the truth or not? How would you evaluate the effectiveness of these methods?
- Do any characters deceive themselves? Who and why?
- Why does John Proctor fail to mention that he met alone with Abigail when she told him the accusations of witchcraft weren’t true?
Chew on This
John Proctor is lying to his wife when he claims that he no longer has feelings for Abigail.
The play makes the radical argument that no kind of deception can ever be ethically justified.