Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Crucible

We just watched Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It's the kind of movie you need to watch in the middle of the afternoon or early evening, because it's going to take a little while to get it out of your system. Courtroom dramas can be quite intense, but seventeenth-century court dramas are excruciatingly more so, because the stakes are so much higher.

What struck me most about the story was the depth of the roles given to the women. Usually in such stories, the woman is the defender of life and love and the man is the defender of principle. There is usually a High Noon moment when the woman says, "If I love you and you love me, what does it all matter?" and the man says, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." But we don't get that here. John Proctor does believe in principle, but his wife Elizabeth even more so. John tries to get Elizabeth to tell him what to do, wants to live for his family, but she refuses to take the burden of principle from him. When people are pleading for her to try to get John to confess, she says, "He has his goodness now -- God forbid I should take that away from him."
The play convinces you, in heartbreaking fashion, that there are some things more important than life or death.

What also struck me about the play (or, at least, this rendering of it) is how much time it spent on both sides of the story. Normally, you know the bad guys from the good pretty quickly . . . but here, we spend a good half-hour seeing most of the story from point of view of Abigail and her family. We identify with her, at least enough to know that she's over her head, and hoping that somehow she will redeem herself. But after the first scene between Abigail and John Proctor, we feel the momentum shift. What was strength and determination in Abigail is now seen as weakness and wickedness. Then the story circles around John, and his virtues and sins. Even that would have been enough for most stories, but then it expands to be about Elizabeth, and her role is in some ways the most definitive and encompassing perspective of the whole play.



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