I hate to rate this so low when it seems that the only people who do so are those forced to read it by a cruel teacher. I'm even more troubled by the fact that I haven't seen anyone else bring up what bothers me about this play.
Yes, it's well written -- that is, the dialogue is expertly handled. There are truly beautiful passages, such as this one:
"I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up."
But when it comes down to it, this is yet another piece of literature in which men HAVE sex, but women ARE sex. Men have complex lives and motivations; women's lives center entirely around men, specifically around attraction to and dependence on men.
Miller brought up the very real issues of property and land-lust that dominated the real trial. Why did he insist on sexualizing the girls involved -- to the point where he had to make one of the girls several years older than she really was? The terrifying thing about what the real "afflicted girls" did was that it comes across as a sort of motiveless malignity. They were lashing out at their own repressive society, possibly egged on by parents who wanted to use them as weapons in battles over land. That's fascinating.
Instead, Miller decided to say that the girls really were
engaged in "witchcraft" -- or at least in stereotypical witch behavior: dancing naked in the woods at night, concocting evil brews. He insists that "there are accounts of similar klatches
in Europe, where the daughters of the towns would assemble at night and, sometimes with fetishes, sometimes with a selected young man, give themselves to love, with some bastardly results." He doesn't seem to realize that these "accounts" are all from accusers or from the tortured accused. He really seems to believe that this went on.
Then there's the main character: John Proctor. Can't imagine why I have a hard time sympathizing with him.
Imagine you know a family with three young children. They hire an au pair. The dad has an affair with this young woman -- hardly older than a girl, a virgin, completely inexperienced in life or love. The mom suspects that something is going on and fires her, but stays with the dad. The dad bitches at the mom for always giving him that look
and not acting happy to see him all the time. The mom breaks down crying and admits that her cold behavior must have pushed him into having an affair. The dad also bitches at the au pair, because this affair got her hopes up and she really thought it meant something to him the way it did to her. He screams at this teenager (who was lucky not to get pregnant, btw, since they didn't use birth control) to get over it, already -- he's married and he's staying that way.
If you heard about something like this -- maybe it happened to a friend of yours, maybe you read about it in a novel -- would your first sympathy really be with the poor, tormented man who has to put up with all these women
acting like he owes them something?
Why has no one pointed out how creepy it is that John Proctor is genuinely supposed to be a sympathetic character, and Abigail is a monster?
And by the way -- contrary to what Miller says in his afterword, the only "legend" that "has it that Abigail turned up later as a prostitute in Boston" is the one he started by writing this.
Sorry. I'm not in 9th grade, and I still have problems with this modern classic.